Dear Black parents, let’s be real with one another — there’s a lot of ugly in our country’s past.
When you are a Black mom raising Black children, you don’t want to violate our children’s innocence any more than parents from any other culture.
Conscious Parent, Conscious Hands
As a conscious Black parent, I understand and embrace that my daughter will learn about holidays like the Fourth of July and Thanksgiving at her school. I’ve started letting my daughter participate in those school holiday activities. But when it’s time for us to have our celebrations, I explain to her very clearly how it’s unfortunate that this country loves Thanksgiving but it wasn’t a celebratory moment for everybody. I tell her about how Native Americans were marginalized and the efforts that were made to wipe them and their cultures from the face of this country, but here we are celebrating it. It just doesn’t feel right.
Juneteenth, by comparison, is a holiday that truly came to American society’s forefront in the last couple of years, we’re talking since the murder of George Floyd at the hands of police. Now, everyone knows what Juneteenth is, and since the whole of America knows about it, let’s make sure that we hold it sacred. We can’t allow it to get commercialized, because once things get commercialized, we always lose their true value.
“I want my daughter to know that celebrating Juneteenth is our version of the Fourth of July for us. I want her to know that we can’t celebrate this country until we can celebrate ourselves, first.”
If you’re a conscious parent, everything needs to be dealt with conscious hands. We haven’t learned about the truth of any of these holidays until recently. That’s one thing that’s so amazing about critical race theory and how it’s been demonized by conservatives.
As of 2021, according to a USA Today poll, just under 40% of white parents are in favor of their children’s schools teaching critical race theory, versus the over 80% of Black parents in favor of it. Since the beginning of 2022, however, at least 42 states have adopted or introduced CRT legislation to stop the teaching of CRT. The only thing you’re left with is the truth after you remove the politics.
Consciously, as parents, we’ve got to talk about the whole topic and allow our children to react and feel those moments. They must be given an opportunity to share their feedback and ask their own questions. Part of the joy in raising self-fulfilled and aware children is fulfilling their curiosity.
It Doesn’t Exist If You Don’t Teach It
We live in a society where we all are learning about the history of Europeans. We are literally inundated with European history, but this only gives us one side of the story. When all people learn about is one culture, it allows people to lack empathy for others. It’s why we have the prejudiced conception that African Americans lack contributions to this world when indeed, we’ve created so many things that we use every single day, from the ironing board to the stoplight. It’s unbelievable the list of things African Americans have created throughout America’s history that are simply forgotten.
If you don’t learn about our history, then you are left with no other option than to believe it doesn’t exist. It creates a flawed narrative that only works in ignorance and benefits a world where people are seen as less than human. When I am able to see you as a human, I see your humanity. I respect you because of just being who you are — not for doing anything.
My Advice To My White Friends
I tell all my white mom friends to read “What Color Is My World? : The Lost History of African-American Inventors” by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Raymond Obstfeld. When I do, I’ll say to them, “You’ll pretty much see everything you use on a daily basis was created by Black people, and then, you’ll start to take yourself out of this toxic narrative and hopefully share this knowledge with your children.” Just the simple step of reporting the truth introduces people to others’ humanity and worth.
Juneteenth commemorates a time when the majority culture that was in charge and in power violated my people’s rights. It commemorates a time when slavery was already abolished, but because there was no social media back then, many slaves weren’t aware of this.
Plantation owners just kept moving on as they always did with their slaves. Two years later, the slaves who had remained in bondage well past Abraham Lincoln’s signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, realized they were freed and could enjoy the relief of their freedom from bondage.
Our Fourth Of July
I want my daughter to know that celebrating Juneteenth is our version of the Fourth of July for us. I want her to know that we can’t celebrate this country until we can celebrate ourselves, first. This doesn’t mean that anybody else needs to celebrate Juneteenth, but for us as African Americans, and for our culture, we’re very proud of Juneteenth, and the fact that we all can now call it an American holiday is another step towards true historic awareness.
In the end, I want my daughter and all of our children, to know that is the day we celebrate our people being free on the books. This is our day where we need to reach back and think of our ancestors who suffered so much.
This is our day where we get to celebrate all of our ancestors’ hard work and sacrifice so that we can be here today. This is our day to celebrate ourselves and our place in America.
Tanika Ray is a Spelman graduate and renowned as a celebrity television personality, entertainment journalist. She is the host of the mom-centric podcast, Mamaste with Tanika Ray. She has been featured in The Grio, Red Table Talk, BET, Essence and PEOPLE and has worked with NBC, CW, HGTV, LIFETIME, TLC, BET, TVOne. Ray has hosted for shows such as OWN’s Ready To Love and Ladies Who List, HGTV’s Design Star, and CW’s OhSit game show.