Emanuel nine Charleston shooting parents parenting race relations in America

Race Relations: Different Experiences Net Different Perspectives

Posted on Posted in Blog, Raising Children of Color

Race Relations: Different Experiences Net Different Perspectives

What do you do when you have a completely different perspective than someone else? Yell? Avoid the conversation at all costs?  I live in the South and we have become experts at avoiding conversations we don’t want to have where there is a well-established disagreement.  In fact, I think it’s a Southern tradition.
One thing we have avoided really well? The placement of the Confederate flag.  Why?  Mainly because opinions on why or why not the flag should hang on public grounds are based on different experiences which result in different perspectives.   
I was watching the Facts of Life the other day (and yes I did say the Facts of Life).  I loved the show growing up.  But like most things it takes on a completely new world of its on now that I am an adult.  This episode was about Tootie befriending this little boy who was a latch key kid.  Long story short (as my sister always says) there was a gas leak in the building.  The little boy was told by his mama not to open the door for any one until she gets home from work.  Well, Tootie was able to convince the boy to come out of the apartment since he trusted her.  Later on the mama comes home to find a note on the door that says come and pick up your son from Mrs. Garrett’s high end bakery.  When she gets there Tootie lets her have it:
Why would you leave your son alone every day?
What’s a little boy supposed to do cooped up in an apartment all day long until you get home from work?
What kind of mama are you to leave him alone like that?
I mean she went on and on.  The mama did explain, rather too calmly for me, that she had limited options.  She was a single mama.  She could not afford aftercare and she had no one to help her watch him.  So giving him a key and strict instructions to go straight home was the only solution she had.
Now, why was I surprised that Tootie didn’t understand this woman’s plight?  I mean she did grow up in an elite private boarding school. Her parents may have not been around every day but they could very well afford to have someone like Mrs. Garrett keep an eye on her.  She had no children and she definitely had not one day of experience being a single one. Not one.
I understood how the mama’s hands were tied.  I’ve been there. I was once a single mama.  I know that if it wasn’t for the good graces of my parents my oldest would have been latch keying it too. 
This to me, albeit fictional, is a prime example of when people see the same situation differently based on their experiences.  When this happens usually you can agree to disagree.  But that doesn’t work when you are faced with the same disagreement over and over again.
I see this today as the Confederate flag debate continues in my home state.  The flag has been an issue since I was a little girl.  It’s gotten to the point in South Carolina where we talk about the flag only in whispers or behind closed doors.  You don’t know if someone you work with has a flag flying in their front yard, especially if the person is your boss.
A recent June 2015 Gallup Poll found that:
  •  13% of U.S. blacks mention race relations as top problem
  • 4% of whites say the same
I presume the view on race relations is so different because our experiences are so vastly different. Although, there seems to be a shift occurring in the South and I would say rightfully so.  Hopefully it’s not all a farce, a temporary display of throwing around words folk have been dying to hear.   Just maybe last week’s tragic events, caused by the deaths of the Emanuel nine, will jump start a conversation or open dialogue on different experiences. Fingers and toes crossed this just maybe the start of a new Southern tradition.  And not a day too soon either.



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