The recent events which transpired in our country over the racial injustices and oppression towards African Americans breaks my heart. I have been searching for ways to open the crucial dialogue with my girls.
This hits close to home for my family in particular because not only are we two dads raising a family, but we have 3, multi-racial children. Our oldest daughter is half Guatemalan and half Caucasian. Our youngest is Honduran, and our middle child is African American. My heart hurts to see the prejudiced environment my middle child may be especially exposed to as she gets older. I want her to feel as comfortable in her own skin as any white, privileged person is. Though I know it is a difficult goal, my husband and I will do everything in our power to allow her to feel that way every day of her life.
I know racism is a learned behavior. Harboring hate in your heart is terrible, but teaching it to your children is abuse. It cripples the entire human race, and it deteriorates the world.
Growing up in south Mississippi, I was able to easily see how my own father was the most racist and hateful person I had ever met. Lucky enough for me, my mother divorced him when I was a little boy.
Unfortunately, I was already exposed to so much damage from his disgusting hatred. He abused my mom, me, and so many others I can remember. There is no telling how many people he has intentionally tried to destroy.
I endured mental and psychological abuse which stemmed from his temper. I remember how I would feel so defeated as he screamed at me trying to teach me how to ‘tell time’ on my new ‘Transformers’ watch when I was just 6 years old. I still remember that as clear as day. I knew I was never going to be that kind of father.
As I got older he would call me sissy, mama’s boy and queer. That was bad enough, but the things I can recall him saying towards black Americans was just as bad if not worse.
And then, there is the most gut wrenching reason. He has always been an alcoholic and a drug addict. And because of his selfish addictions, I lost my 17 year old brother.
I would also see how he treated his spouses and I knew I would never lay a hand on my partners. Despite being gay, I knew in those early years I would always treat my partner with dignity and respect.
There are things I will unfortunately, never forget. Those early memories taught me the most important lessons of all. They showed me how to NOT live my life. Rather than having my father teach me the RIGHT things to do in the world, I watched him and tried to do the opposite.
As I grew into a teen I figured out one person can change the world. One smile, one open mind, one kind heart. Love can and WILL win in the end. The question is, when?
Well, it starts today. With you, and me.
This morning was a huge moment for my girls. I finally found the way to naturally and comfortably talk about the beauty of our country and what makes it so great.
Back when I was a little boy, there was a movie I loved so much. I remember having the stuffed animal and taking his hat off so I could wear it just like him. I would sing the songs as loud then as we did this morning. However, I didn’t realize how deep this movie actually was until I watched it again.
Friends, if there was one movie you NEED to introduce to your kids right now, it is “An American Tail.”
Anyone who knows me or even knows OF me, knows I wear my hat almost all of the time. I owe it to this movie!
I sang one of the songs from this movie to my babies their entire lives. Most importantly, it helps my girls to see what made our country so great.
They were able to see how all over the world people admire America. People come here to escape their own countries when they are being killed and tortured. In America, we have the freedom to speak out when we see things that aren’t right. In America, we join together for causes. As one, we hold rallies and protests when we see unfair practices and injustices wherever they may be. In America, we do not back down in the face of fear or intimidation. That is what makes our country so beautiful. It always has been, we just lost sight of it. America has always been great. And do not let anyone tell you it isn’t.
Our oldest little girl looked at me during the movie and asked what a “wawwy” was. I knew exactly what she meant. She repeated it exactly as she heard it in the film. I asked her, A rally? And she nodded. I said, ‘Well baby, A rally is like a protest. That is where a group of people come together for the same reason, to demand change.”
“In America, we are allowed to do that. And because of those freedoms, we are able to see the change begin which makes people happy again.” (I tried to simplify it because she is only 4!) Then, she looked at me as that same iconic song came on, and I quietly lost it. I cried as she looked on with a big smile. In that moment, she knew the song she had always heard me sing was from this very movie, and she understood why it was so powerful.
If none of that works for your family, you can always bring out the ‘GIANT MOUSE OF MINSK,’ filled with fireworks and fury! Okay, maybe not the last part… but I couldn’t help but wonder if there was strategic symbolism placed there. Riots and chaos unleashed when there is no other alternative? I don’t know. What I do know, today, in this moment… is how I was able to introduce some heavy dialogue to my babies this morning and it was all thanks to this movie.
Parents, go watch “An American Tail” right now with your babies. You’ll thank me later.
What can I do to help her in the future? I will always pay attention in public. I never know when some hateful person will crawl out of a dark corner of the world. I will shield her from the barrage of ignorance when I am in control. What I fear most is when my little ‘mocha drop’ goes out into the world alone.
Daddy and Papa won’t be there for every tough moment. But what WILL be there is the confidence and the intelligence to know she is bigger and stronger than any person who tries to tear her down because of her differences. We are all different. It is what makes us all so uniquely beautiful. If some people cannot see that then we will smile and move on and not look back.
I am so blessed to be living in the time that I am. As scary as some moments are, those situations mold our characters to become the resilient humans we are destined to be.
I am the father I am because of the sad and unfortunate circumstances I faced when I was a boy. I am the man I am today so I can raise my babies to be the adults they will grow into tomorrow.