Two grainy videos
Two Black men
Two different responses
Rapper and entrepreneur Jay Z enters the elevator and his sister-in-law unleashes on him, kicking and wind-milling her arms and he calmly steps to the side, blocks her assault and chooses not to retaliate. Several seconds later Jay Z emerges from the elevator as if nothing happened. There has been plenty of speculation around why the sister-in-law attacked him and I don’t really care why. I care about the images that are sent and received.
Baltimore Ravens running back, Ray Rice and his fiancé enter the elevator. The doors close and the fiancé lofts a swing at Ray after he spits on her. Ray retaliates with a punch to her face. She moves towards him and he punches her again…in the face. She falls lifeless and is unconscious before she hits the cold marble floor. Many have argued that she could have provoked this and want to argue that we don’t know the whole story and I really don’t care why. There is nothing she could have done to warrant this abuse. Period. I care about the images sent and received.
The message I got from the first elevator ride was focused on how crazed and out of control Jay Z’s sister-in-law was during the floor to floor ride. It wasn’t on Jay Z and that fact that he did the right thing. The focus wasn’t on the fact that he did what I hope my son’s would do if ever in that situation. But “thugs” don’t do good things so instead the focus falls on the image of the “crazy Black girl.”
The message I got from the second elevator ride was focused on Ray and rightly so it should have been. What he did was indefensible and that image of his brutal act will be play over and over because it fits the stereotype. I’m furious at Ray, the man, for hitting a defenseless woman. I’m furious at Ray, the Black man, because he offered up footage that will be used to show black males can’t control their violent tendencies.
As parents of children of color you must alter the lenses through which you view life. You must be aware of the messages sent and received, the stereotypes, and the assumptions that come with the color of your child’s skin. It is through these altered lenses that you must view the world that goes on around your children. So when your daughter is treated unfairly because the image of “the crazy black girl” replaces who she is you must be able to recognize that and advocate for her. When you son is unjustly punished in school because the image of the violent black male replaces the sweet child he is you must be able to recognize this bias and advocate for him.
When you advocate, do it tactfully and be aware of the reaction that comes with race or even a hint of racial bias. The reactions will come in statements like, “I am not a racist!” “Why are you playing the race card?” “We don’t see color!” … Don’t let these statements distract from your mission. Your mission is to be your child’s advocate. Your mission is to help others to see beyond the characters and stereotypes that are assigned to your child and help them see the individual your child is and can be come.