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Perhaps we should let the country’s children lead

Waveney Ann Moore

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As most adults around the United States remain laser-focused on the upcoming elections, my darling granddaughter is engrossed in a campaign of her own – a winning one – for a puppy.

You see, a few weeks ago, her pet hamster, Hermione, died. There were tears. Mom comforted, while Dad handled the remains and got rid of Hermione’s cage and toys. Big brother joined the pleas for a long-desired dog. Not too big. And one that would live for a long, long time.

These are the types of weighty issues children should be contemplating.

Sadly, many Black children and other children of color, and even of religious minorities, have to face being pre-judged for the color of their skin, texture of their hair, religious clothing they wear, or the language they speak.

I still chide myself for often telling my then pre-teen daughter that she was an ambassador for her race and that anything she did reflected on all Black people. What a burden to put on a child! But she was never taught – obliquely or otherwise – to hate, fear, or disrespect people of other races or religions. Instead, her focus was to be on her studies and diligently pursuing her goals.

So I couldn’t help being upset when I read a New York Times piece this week quoting Jared Kushner’s assessment of Black Americans.

Here is a paragraph from that Oct. 26 article: “One thing we’ve seen in a lot of the Black community, which is mostly Democrat, is that President Trump’s policies are the policies that can help people break out of the problems that they’re complaining about,” Mr. Kushner said in an interview with Fox & Friends, the president’s favorite morning cable show.

“But he can’t want them to be successful more than they want to be successful.”

I had a visceral reaction to that Times piece, a sort of dull ache in my chest. This led me to think of the studies revealing the way discrimination affects the health of Black people in the United States. Recently, the American Heart Association pointed to new research indicating that “a lifetime of exposure to the stresses of discrimination may increase the risk of high blood pressure in African Americans.”

The association quoted study author Allana T. Ford, who said, in a press release, that the research was “one of the first large, community-based studies to suggest an association between discrimination over a lifetime and the development of hypertension among a large sample of African American men and women.”

The Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg, which focuses on addressing health disparities in Pinellas County, among other issues, notes that “research tells us that stress, disease and other repercussions of discrimination, poverty, and lack of fair access to resources and opportunity take their toll on individual health at an alarming rate.”

These are uncomfortable issues to discuss. I have friends, neighbors, former colleagues, pew mates – and yes, close family – of different races. I would not want to hurt their feelings. Speaking about these issues can feel like blaming an entire group for the racism of a segment of society.

My late mother-in-law would have been 100 years old this month. She came to America from Jamaica with her three children, two of them teenage boys, in the late 1960s. Her husband, a police officer, died a few months before they were to make the transition to a new life in America. My mother-in-law was among the group of Jamaican nurses who were allowed to come to this country to fill a need. She had been trained in both England and Jamaica. By the time I met her, she had already been working practically around the clock to support her children, to buy a home for them and to send them to college. She lived to see her dreams fulfilled, with one becoming a Yale-educated doctor. Her story is far from unique.

Yes, Black people do work hard. Sometimes we might even overcompensate to offset what we suspect are the uninformed beliefs of others. We, people of all races, must do better, especially for innocent children who don’t see such differences.

A few years ago, there was a couple in my neighborhood who cared for foster children. Cars were often parked haphazardly and dangerously on the street in front of the house. One day, I saw a young woman get out of an SUV with a couple of children and I stopped to mention the parking situation. One of the children with her, a little blond boy who was about three years old, looked at me hopefully and asked, “Are you my Mommy?” I could barely tell him no as my eyes welled up.  

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    Marie Miller

    October 29, 2020at9:47 pm

    Beautiful and thoughtful piece. So much to consider and absorb. I hope Mr. Kushner’s words were not the catalyst to draw a contrast between the Presidential contenders. Words may fail but actions do not. 47 years is a long time in public office and leaves a trail of behavior that failed to bring forth positive change for people of color. I don’t know what it is like to walk in another persons shoes, but I personally would weigh the actions of the man who has a long history of supporting policies against minorities and did nothing to advance civil rights. I’d look no further than the words spoken by Mr Biden to Chief Justice Clarence Thomas at his judicial hearing, his belittling arrogance towards Clarence Thomas! I proudly marched with Dr. King, and lived through the rhetoric of Joe Biden. He’s never going to be a champion for people of color and he is not the lesser of two evils.

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