Amber Dorsey: Raising Black Children Amid a Pandemic and Worldwide Protests: No Parenting Book Could Have Prepared Me for This New World

No Parenting Book Could Have Prepared Me for Being a Black Mom Raising Black Children Amid a Pandemic and Worldwide Protests

When you first have kids, you read all the books (or not) on what to expect, and as you raise them, you talk to other parents and compare notes on milestones and mood swings, techniques, and terrible twos and more.

Being a Black mom is somewhat different in that there is a myriad of other things we have to prepare our kids for. Concerns over sending them into the world my white mom friends don’t have and certain discussions about inevitable, albeit unfortunate, occasions of racism both overt and subtle. Talks on how to behave if ever pulled over, what to say if stopped in a store, how to carry yourself in public and so many other ways to maneuver through life as a Black child under a white gaze. It’s maddening and scary, but this has been my reality and that of everyone I know that looks like me, for as long as we have been in this country. 

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Urgent New Conversations Are Now Necessary

But none of those earlier conversations were preparation enough for the socio-economic climate in which I currently find myself parenting. Not only are we in the middle of a global pandemic, but there are also protests across the country as well as riots and continued examples of why people are protesting. 

And that is now added on to the list of things I have to discuss with my children, ages 8 and 18.

It has been a long three months. I am exhausted on all levels like many other parents. 

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The Parenting Book We Need to Guide Us Through a Time Like This Simply Does Not Exist

Living in California means we were one of the first states to shut down, so as the valedictorian said, they had the worst Friday the 13th ever. In the nearly three-month span of time my kids have been out of school, my oldest child turned 18, missed her Senior prom and other activities, celebrated her graduation with a drive-through ceremony, and witnessed the world begin to tilt on its axis all within a matter of weeks. 

This was NOT covered in any of the parenting books! 

Nowhere in the history of the known world has this occurred and at such a time when we have access to so much information. So much that even if I was tempted to shield either of them from it in some way, I couldn’t.

While my 18-year-old is upset and angry about what is going on outside our doors, she’s found some solace in sharing content that speaks to what she’s feeling as well as talking things out with me. She is old enough to really understand what’s going on and is able to process ideas and concepts that would have eluded me at her age.

How This Powerful Moment in History Factors into My Parenting Choices as a Black Mom

One of the things we’ve discussed is whether or not she’ll be joining in on the protests as they are continuing to gain momentum around the country, state, and now within our own suburban city. Not once when she was a baby did I ever think I’d have to discuss with my child how to dress if going to a protest, what to do if she got arrested for protesting, she’s 18 now and that changes everything, or how to protect herself from harm while out. She’s watched her cousins and other friends get out in the thick of things and she’s torn about whether or not she should be out there as well. 

My mama heart and mind say, “No absolutely not. You need to be and stay safe.” But I also recognize that we are witnessing a powerful moment in history and I cannot fault her for wanting to be part of it. For feeling led to have some kind of impact in this fight. That’s what I’ve raised her to do. To use her voice and stand up for what she believes in, even if it’s scary.

And so, I say nothing. I just listen and let her talk. Sometimes I share my own experiences with growing up Black in this country and how things have changed since I was her age, but also how they haven’t. I grew up in the ’90s and lived in California during the Rodney King protests-turned-riots; this is not the same energy. This is something different. We can both feel it. 

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Creativity and Empowerment in the Age of Protests and a Global Pandemic

Another thing we focus on: some of the amazing content that has come out of both the COVID-19 pandemic and the protests. The creativity that being home has sparked has been unfathomable. That creativity coupled with the protesting has sparked some of the best content on the Internet.

One thing I have always tried to instill in my kids is that “no matter what, no one can steal your joy.” So we’re finding ways to relish in that joy in the current moment. The small laughs we can summon even while the world burns around us have made the darkest moments seem not quite as scary. While I don’t know what’s going to happen or how things will look in the next week or even the next month, I do know that it’s my job as a parent to make sure my babies are not only safe but also well informed on all topics. 

There has been some talk in the online parenting community about whether or not we should be talking to our kids about what’s going on out in the world and the eternal question of “how young is too young.” For me, as a Black mother, the answer is it’s never too early to start talking about race with your children because if you don’t, the world will and that’s how opinions and biases are formed.

I don’t have the privilege of shielding my kids from the scary outside world for as long as I can because to the outside world, they’re the scary ones. We all have an incredible opportunity to bring about change and we can start by talking to our kids as openly and honestly as possible. 

If anything is going to change, the time is now, and it starts with us and continues on through them. 

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