I never like to write from a place of anger. Anger clouds my true thoughts, skews my intentions, and makes it very damn difficult to access the parts of myself that can see the entire picture. Anger makes me myopic—focusing on a tiny fraction of the whole, at the exclusion of everything else. Anger makes me jump to conclusions, make judgments, and invites me to mistake perspective for truth.
So, just to put it out there, I am very angry as I write this.
Why am I so angry? I’m angry because I am fed up with people who limit their children’s experiences and potential because of their belief in God and/or their ideas about what Black folks will or will not do. I’ve seen this manifest in various ways since landing on planet parenthood, but the following scenario pushed me beyond my limit.
I was sitting with two mothers and their children, and one of the women’s sons was all over the place. He was loud. Very loud. He climbed on chairs, climbed under them, turned cartwheels, and ran around in circles like he was on his own little track. She yelled at him, and when I saw him flinch at the volume and tone of her voice, my heart broke a little.
I signaled little man over, pointed out a stack of children’s books, and asked him to pick out a few, and offered to read to him and the other kids. It took him a while, but he did what he was asked. I read one story, and he and his peers started some kind of game that pulled their attention away from the books and onto trying to make each other laugh. His mother said, “Shoot. I wish that worked at home.”
Then I asked the mom if she thought about introducing mindfulness practices to him. I had to clarify, and asked her if she’d consider teaching her kid how to meditate. The look she gave me…
Her eyes went wide. “You ain’t supposed to do that. That’s how demons get in. It’s against God. And Black people don’t do that anyway.” A one-two punch. I wanted to ask her where she got these notions from, but thought it was best to explain to her what mindfulness could mean. I spoke to her about showing her son how to be aware of his body, his thoughts, and how they both affect other people. I offered her examples of how mindfulness exercises helped my daughter settle down and excel in school. I spoke to her about how corporations are trying their damndest to turn the idea into a business and make us buy things that have been a part of mist world’s cultures since… the beginning.
She would not budge. She toed her party line and offered variations of, “God said we shouldn’t” and ‘Black people wouldn’t do that.” I continued to explain the benefits my daughter received. My attempts at convincing her made no difference; she collected her son and moved to the far side of the lobby. The other mother kept quiet, but I noticed her lean towards the other woman.
A belief in God and being Black should never be reasons why we don’t try things to help our children. It should be the exact opposite. Faith and cultural connections should be the spaces from where we can gain clarity; they shouldn’t blind us. From my observations, that little boy could have benefitted greatly from some kind of practice. If he were given the opportunity to learn to sit still, be quiet, to gain a deeper and more active relationship with his mind and body, there’s no telling how much easier his life could be.
So many young Black boys are suspended from school or otherwise ostracized from situations because of high energy levels. Whether this excess energy is from a sugary diet, the elevated stress hormones that so many Black folks are afflicted by, or just natural energy, it has to be effectively addressed.
We need to give our children the tools necessary to survive and thrive in a world where they’re not treated equally for exhibiting the same behaviors as their White counterparts. A little “om” here, some quiet time and stretching there—these can only be helpful additions to our parenting toolbox.
Shawn Taylor is the author of Big Black Penis: Misadventures in Race and Masculinity, and People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm. He lives in the San Francisco Bay area with his wife and daughter, and can be found sporadically on Twitter @reallovepunk.