Friday, March 12, 2010

Out of the Mouths of Babes

Although I should know better, I have the bad habit of reading the online comments about Charlotte Observer articles. Some of them are fun, but they can get ugly fast.

Last night, I was fuming at reactions to an article about a speech by Geoffrey Canada, the founder of the Harlem Children's Zone. Canada's thoughts about helping low-income parents raise their children more effectively brought forth a torrent of stomach-turning stereotypes.

When Parker asked me why I was so angry, I had him look at a comment. In part, it read:

You mentioned "parents" . . . I don't think that's the case for the majority of blacks in the US. The females seem to have children as a recreation rather than a responsibility. The children have no role model other than someone who can bounce a ball, or some drug salesman in the neighborhood. Their friends are thugs . . . One parent; a bad attitude; wrong friends; drugs; slovenly appearance; that education is a "white thang" are not positives that will lead these people to the economic promised land.

The comment made him mad too, and he wanted to respond. I told him to go ahead.

With school writing assignments, producing sentences can feel like pulling teeth. Not this time. " I'm just going to go right out and say it you haven't been around black people enough to say that," he quickly typed. "So next time you go to CVS ask the clerk about his life."

At first I was puzzled. Where did CVS fit into all of this?

Then it hit me. My nine-year-old son, who has spent the past four years at a high-poverty, high-minority school, does not know what a drug dealer is. When he thinks of African Americans and drugs, he thinks about the people who staff the registers at drugstores like the CVS chain.

And he is right on the mark. I'm sure that far more African Americans take home honestly earned paychecks from drugstores than stand on street corners peddling illicit substances. I'm delighted that Parker sees things this way. I think we may be doing something right.

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