This week, as part of a blog-a-thon hosted by Parenting.com’s Mom Congress, I wrote an open letter to my daughters about what their father and I plan to do this year to help them succeed in school. Here’s a snippet of what I wrote:
Please understand, the southern caste system that kept Gamma Bettye and Papa Jimy from getting the educations all children deserve made them value education like no other; they came from a generation of African Americans born and reared in the South where black babies were relegated, by law, to substandard schools and books and jobs and neighborhoods and services. And so the first chance they could, they high-tailed themselves up North, first for jobs, second to find each other, and third to give their children the opportunities they were denied when they were little. But for your grandparents, there was no time for PTA meetings and school bake sales, no know-how when it came to writing essays or figuring out tough algebra problems, no advocacy with teachers. Maybe they felt like they couldn’t handle it. Perhaps it was what parents like them did in their time trust that teachers are professionals capable of doing their jobs without parents getting in the middle of it all.
This tactic worked for the most part. But there were many times when I needed them to just, like, read the landscape help me chart where I should be and what I should be doing to get there. On a few occasions, I needed them to fight for me to understand that just because we were living in the suburbs and in a decent school system didn’t mean their daughter was immune to stereotypes, racism, sexism or adults who had low expectations for kids who looked like me.
What my parents did well, though, was inspire. They told me consistently that I was capable of doing anything I put my mind to that I could be anything I wanted to be. Most days, that was enough to get me through.
But I don’t want you to have to settle for “enough.” I need you to walk into your classrooms, shoulders squared, chins up. Ready. To be the brilliant girls your father and I are raising you to be. So there is absolutely no confusion between the two of you and all of the statistics that suggest children who look like you come from homes where parents don’t care about education, aren’t involved in the classrooms, and are incapable of raising kids who can finish school strong.
You are not statistics.
You are young, gifted and black beautifully so.
And I vow this day and every day after that to remind you and anyone else listening to understand these things…
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To read the rest of Young, Gifted & Black, check out the MyBrownBaby page on Parenting.com. To see more letters from the Mom Congress Back-To-School Blog-a-thon, click here.
Mom Congress also is sponsoring the School Transformation Grant contest, that will give $20,000 to a school in need. Enter a short essay and a photo or video of a school in need here.
Have a fantastic weekend!
Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.