While walking home with Camilla after a trip to the library yesterday, I had a Black man look at me and shake his head. He then said that I should be ashamed. Camilla heard him say something and asked me what did the man say. I told her that we should go ask him. So, we both yelled, "Excuse me, sir." After getting his attention, the man very uncomfortably stopped. He couldn't even make eye contact. I asked him to explain what he said to my daughter. He claimed that he only spoke to me. Camilla informed him that she heard him say something. I told him he should be ashamed for expressing such anger towards me in front of my child. He said that I needed strength. I told him he doesn't know me at all and that it took a great deal of strength to confront him. Camilla then said, "My daddy's strong! He's a great dad, and I love him." (She had my back!) The man then called me a slave, and somehow wished me a good day. I told him I was already having one and his hate wouldn't ruin it. Camilla and I spoke at length about this incident. I explained that this is our reality as Black people. We are unfortunately destined to have folks question our Blackness. But, we must stay true to ourselves and continue to define and celebrate our Blackness on our terms. We talked about how some people like to size you up by look instead of character. That some people don't approve of a marriage between a Black person and a white person. We discussed why some people feel the need to hate. I told her that people sometimes express this kind of anger when they don't have love in their hearts. Sometimes, people are taught these views. But, we can't let this petty man and people like him take away from what we have. Honestly, this was pretty much the last thing I needed to have happen after my anguish over Charlottesville, but teachable moments are too important to pass up. I also didn't want this man to get away with his behavior.
Please don't let things like this go without addressing them. Please don't fear having these types of conversations with your child or class or family. And if for some reason you don't believe you have the tools and language, let me know.