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I Taught My Black Kids That Their Elite Upbringing Would Protect Them From Discrimination – I was Wrong

Posted by addisethiopia on December 9, 2014

No matter how many degrees you have, no matter how nicely you dress, no matter how “articulate” you are, Whites will still see you as a “nigger”

ሮም አገር ስትሆን እንደ ሮማውያን አድርግየሚለውን አባባል በከፊል እስማማበታለሁ፤ አሁን ከረባት የምንለው ጨርቅ (ኽርቫቲ = ክሮኤሺያ – ከሚለው ቃል የፈለሰ ነው) ታሪካዊ አመጣጡ ከአውሮፓውያን ጋር የተያያዘ በመሆኑና ቀስበቀስም እንደ መለዮ ስለተወሰደና ከሌላው የተሻልን መሆናችንን የምናሳይበት ምልክት ስለሆነ። በተለይ እኛ ኢትዮጵያውያን ከረባት ማሠራችንን አልደግፈውም፤ እኔ እራሴ አልፎ አልፎ ለማሠር ብገደድም። የባህል ልብሳችንን ላለመልበስ አዘውትረን የምንሰጠው ምክኒያት፡ ለሥራ አያመችም!” በማለት ነው። እንዲያመቸን አድርገን ማሠራት/መሥራት አንችልምን? እኔ ከረባት ሳሥር በደንብ ለመስራትም ሆነ ዘና ለማለት ይከብደኛል፤ አንገት አንቆ ትንፋሽ ስለሚያሳጥር። በሌላ በኩል፡ ከረባት ስለታሠረ የሚኮሩ ብዙዎች አሉ፤ የኛባልሆነ ነገር፡ በተለይ እኛ ኢትዮጵያውያን ደረታችንን ለመንፋት ስንሞክር በጣም አሳፋሪ ሆኖ ነው የሚታየኝ፤ ታዲያ ፈረንጁ ይህን አይቶ ቢያሽሟጥጥብን ሊደንቀን ይገባልን? በራሱ ባህላዊ አለባበስ ሆነ ባጠቃላይ ማንነቱ የማይኮራ ሌሎች ሊያክብሩት ወይም ሊወዱት አይችሉም። ቀደም ሲል ለባርነት ተጋልጠው የነበሩትና በአውሮፓውያን ቅኝ አገዛዝ ሥር ወድቀው የነበሩት አፍሪቃውያን ወንድሞቻችን ለውስኪ እና ከረባት ሲሉ ወገኖቻቸውን ለባርነት አሳልፈው ሲሰጡ ነበር፤ አሁን ነፍሳቸውን መልሰው ለማግኘት በመሻት ባህላዊ የሆኑ ልብሶቻቸውን በየቦታው ሲያዘወትሩ ይታያሉ። እኛ ደግሞ፡ ነገሮች ሁሉ ግልጥ ብለው በሚታዩበት በዚህ ዘመን ለብዙ ዘመናት የጠበቅነውን ብርቅ ማንነታችንን በግድየለሽነት እየሸረሸርን መሆኑ፤ ወርቁን በፈቃዳችን ለማስረከብ ጠዋት ማታ ተግተን መሥራታችን አያሳዝምን? ‘ሠለጠነየሚባለው ዓለም ነዋሪ ሱፉን እና መርቸድሱን እያስቀመጠ ወደ ካኪውና ብስክሌቱ በመሸጋገርና ያጣውን ሰብዓዊነቱን መልሶ ለማግኘት በመታገል ላይ ይገኛል….እኛስ?…. ከረባት፡ ለእኔ፡ ዘንዶን – የሚያንቅ ዘንዶን – መስሎ ነው የሚታየኝ። የኦክስጅን እጥረት በሚታይባቸው ከተሞቻችንና ላብ በሚያስመርቱት ሞቃታም ቦታዎቻችን አንገትን በከረባት ማነቅ ጥሩ ሃሳብ መስሎ አይታየኝም፤ ስለዚህ፡ ኢትዮጵያዊው፡ ከትንሹ እስከትልቁ፡ ከረባት ማሠር ቢያቆም ጥሩ ነው እላለሁ።

I knew the day would come, but I didn’t know how it would happen, where I would be, or how I would respond. It is the moment that every black parent fears: the day their child is called a nigger.

My wife and I, both African Americans, constitute one of those Type A couples with Ivy League undergraduate and graduate degrees who, for many years, believed that if we worked hard and maintained great jobs, we could insulate our children from the blatant manifestations of bigotry that we experienced as children in the 1960s and ’70s.

We divided our lives between a house in a liberal New York suburb and an apartment on Park Avenue, sent our three kids to a diverse New York City private school, and outfitted them with the accouterments of success: preppy clothes, perfect diction and that air of quiet graciousness. We convinced ourselves that the economic privilege we bestowed on them could buffer these adolescents against what so many black and Latino children face while living in mostly white settings: being profiled by neighbors, followed in stores and stopped by police simply because their race makes them suspect.

But it happened nevertheless in July, when I was 100 miles away.

It was a Tuesday afternoon when my 15-year-old son called from his academic summer program at a leafy New England boarding school and told me that as he was walking across campus, a gray Acura with a broken rear taillight pulled up beside him. Two men leaned out of the car and glared at him.

Are you the only nigger at Mellon Academy*?” one shouted.

Certain that he had not heard them correctly, my son moved closer to the curb, and asked politely, “I’m sorry; I didn’t hear you.”

But he had heard correctly. And this time the man spoke more clearly. “Only … nigger,” he said with added emphasis.

My son froze. He dropped his backpack in alarm and stepped back from the idling car. The men honked the horn loudly and drove off, their laughter echoing behind them.

By the time he recounted his experience a few minutes later, my son was back in his dorm room, ensconced on the third floor of a red-brick fortress. He tried to grasp the meaning of the story as he told it: why the men chose to stop him, why they did it in broad daylight, why they were so calm and deliberate. “Why would they do that — to me?” he whispered breathlessly into the phone. “Dad, they don’t know me. And they weren’t acting drunk. It’s just 3:30 in the afternoon. They could see me, and I could see them!”

My son rambled on, describing the car and the men, asking questions that I couldn’t completely answer. One very clear and cogent query was why, in Connecticut in 2014, grown men would target a student who wasn’t bothering them to harass in broad daylight. The men intended to be menacing. “They got so close — like they were trying to ask directions. … They were definitely trying to scare me,” he said.

Continue reading…

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