Juneteenth & Justice: A Parenting Quandary

I wanted to share Juneteenth with my children, because we are working in the space of making sure they are confident and courageous in the brown skin they are in. I’ve never really celebrated Juneteenth, but I’ve acknowledged it. However, this year was different in my awareness. “152 years”, “#Juneteenth” and similar sentiments peppered my social media timelines. Maybe it was the newness of the Philando Castile verdict just three days before; maybe it was the recent political climate, or the surge in public coverage of the brutal silencing of our Black voices and systematic targeting to eliminate our future – whatever it was, somehow freedom didn’t feel so free this year. I was deep in my feelings about it all and chose not to share with my children. I chose not to share it because I want them to be able to shape their own opinions on knowledge and information that they receive. I want them to be open, think critically and solve problems without the influence of my overly sensitive, pinned up too long sadness, frustration and anger spewing out irrepressibly.  I want them to be wise and aware, but I also want them to be able to trek freely in many diverse settings.

 

My daughter is preparing for kindergarten and is enamored with all things school related right now. She’s regurgitating every ounce of knowledge (and her interpretations) to her younger brother. Today was no different, except the subject was “The Pledge of Allegiance”.  She shared the lines pausing for him to repeat her in baby babble. After “liberty and justice for all” she stopped and asked, “Mama what is justice?”.  I hesitated under the weight of everything happening in our country right now.  I struggled with fears of overcomplicating things pushed against the severe havoc of oversimplifying them. “It’s wrong things being made right; it’s fairness,” I finally answered hoping that she wouldn’t continue her line of questioning. Not because I didn’t want her to know, but because I didn’t want to overwhelm her with my pain. She proceeded to ask me if an example from a particular movie was justice happening and moved on to her next wave of energetic thought. Meanwhile, I was left to examine my response. Were the lump in my throat, knot in my belly and nauseating anxiety a result of the day before being Juneteenth and wallowing in my feelings about that? Was the internal turbulence I was feeling a result of the constant media reel spewing out daily injustice towards people of color? Was it my nerves because I was Driving While Black? Was it a sense of betrayal and guilt because I was in that very moment driving her to a whiter side of town for a camp experience? It was all of it. I’ve always said that parenting is hard, but today it is especially hard. It was hard because I just don’t know how to be with my feelings and process them for little people. It was hard because I am wounded and raw emotionally and don’t want to infect them. It was hard because my daughter is proudly reciting an untruth, and I’m not sure how to correct it. “Liberty and justice for all” is subjective; she and my son are not on the favorable side of the bias. As a parent, I want to be both a shield and guide. Truth is, right now, I just don’t know how.

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