A scene from the Capitol Riots of rioters in the building


The U.S. Capitol Riots Were A Reminder That The World Isn’t Fair For My Black Child

Feb 2, 2021

Children have a very staunch sense of fairness — parents know this well. Try offering three cookies to one and four to the other, and see what ensues. I think it could even be argued that kids see the unfairness of most things better than adults. Grown-ups have been arguing all sorts of -isms and -phobias (racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia) for decades to very little progress.

Like many watching the insurrection and riots at the U.S. Capitol, it was unbelievable to witness it happen in real-time. But even more flabbergasting for me, was the stark difference between how these illegal and criminal protesters were treated versus the peaceful and legal protesters across the country last year. The contrast could not be more black and white. It was the definition of unfair.

A couple of years ago, the vice principal at my son’s new school called me to report an incident. In the conversation, she made it seem like my son assaulted another student. I, being the type of investigative mom that I am, asked additional questions, because I know my son — he’s not violent by nature or out of nowhere.

"The talk: the inevitable conversation when racism comes knocking at our door." As Tanya writes, Black parents know this all too well. Read her advice about broaching the subject here.

It turns out that it was typical second-grader horseplay in the halls. As the other student was falling to the ground, my son tried to prevent an injury by grabbing his arm on his way down. On the walk home, I had to explain to my seven-year-old son that he does not have the privilege to get into the same type of trouble his predominantly white classmates do. The statistics from Peel District School Board confirm this. Black kids get suspended and expelled faster, and at higher instances, than other kids.

"While it was the first real-world lesson for my son on unfairness and injustice, it won’t be the last."

His reply: that’s not fair.

And he is right. It is not.

BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of colour) parents have this internal tug-of war to deal with. How much information about how the world works is too much? How soon is too soon? It’s a delicate balancing act between protecting your children versus preparing them.

In my son’s particular case, it’s exactly what I’ve always known — I don’t ever get to just be a parent. I cannot blindly put trust in the school to be a safe space for him. Because it's not just in Peel that Black kids are overrepresented in suspensions, the same thing is happening within the Toronto District School Board.

What are Black people and people of colour supposed to feel seeing these things? What lesson is learned when to protect and serve is clearly designated for certain people with a particular political leaning and skin colour? Often BIPOC are accused of playing a race card, but that card is never part of a winning hand, nor a get-out-of-jail-free card.

Here are some reasons why this dad believes all white parents should talk to their kids about racism — read it here.

It is hard enough to teach my Black child to see the world for all it can offer. Telling them that if they are kind, respectful, do their work and eat their veggies — that life will reward them in kind. These kinds of happenings fly directly in the face of it all.

But in this case, honesty is the best policy.

"It is hard enough to teach my Black child to see the world for all it can offer."

While it was the first real-world lesson for my son on unfairness and injustice, it won’t be the last. I won’t always get a phone call, and he won’t always be treated with kindness, especially as he gets older. As a Black parent, I have an extra burden and responsibility to teach my child that the world isn’t balanced, and won't give them an equal chance to succeed or receive justice.

But it's important for me to teach him that he can come to me with his side of the story.

I will always listen to determine what the truth is. I will give him the benefit of the doubt, unless I have a reason to doubt him. I believe children need to know that their parents are mostly fair, even if the world isn’t. Open communication and honesty is key too. I plan to continue answering any tough questions he may have, because I want him to be ready for anything that may come his way. This will serve him well, especially as he grows older and stops instinctively running to his mommy for help. And at least I know that when that happens, I will have equipped him with adequate armour to protect himself against many of life's challenges.

The world isn’t just, nor fair — by default or by design. It really never has been and based on what I've been seeing in the news recently, it seems it never will be. But one can always hope.

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

being Black in Canada

Article Author Tanya Hayles
Tanya Hayles

Read more from Tanya here.

Tanya Hayles is an award-winning event planner and creative storyteller, using various mediums to evoke emotions, create change and magnify moments. She spends most of her days turning ideas into reality through rsvp + co. where event planning is not just what she does, it’s who she is. By night, she is the founder of Black Moms Connection, an online global village of 14,000 and non-profit providing culturally relevant programs and resources to educate and empower the Black mother and her family. Tanya is also a contributing writer at ByBlacks.com.

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