The Gap has come under fire from people screaming racism after releasing this ad featuring a group of young girls from an acrobatic troop. Some people complained it was offensive that the white girls seemed to be displaying all the power and the black girl was just there to prop up her white counterpart.
Full disclosure: I’m black. My kids are black. My husband is black. We’re black people! We also happen to live in a majority-white suburb that is still fairly diverse but severely lacking in black Americans specifically.
I say all this to explain that I do feel a certain sensitivity to raising black children in a part of the country where they don’t have too many other black friends to identify with. We often joke that we are the family from “Blackish,” always straddling that line between enjoying the suburban comforts we worked so hard to earn our way to and maintaining a connection to our communities—keeping them street smart, if you will.
So when I see stories like this my ears immediately perk up. Race isn’t an everyday obsession for our family, but it is something we think and talk about from time to time.
But, people, please. This has got to stop. This is not a picture of a white girl holding a noose around a black child’s neck. This is not a picture of a young black woman being swept away by firehoses. This is a picture of four striking young ladies. It’s a clothing ad.
Don’t Take Exception to Our Race
What if the people who shot that photo weren’t thinking of that little girl as “the black one”? What if when they were choosing order and poses they weren’t agonizing over how to treat “the black one”? Isn’t that what we want? Isn’t that what we’ve been asking for?
I don’t want people to ignore our race (I think it’s silly when people try to tell me they don’t see race). Neither do I want people taking exception to our race. If you’re one of those people who would complain about an ad, like this think about what you’re saying to me, as a parent—and to my children. You’re telling my kids that if they’re not favored or their feelings aren’t taken into account first and foremost when dealing with white people that they are the victims of racism.
My children are alive in the most free, prosperous nation in the history of the planet. They have many blessings that (quite literally) the majority of people on this planet would die for and maybe even kill for. Certainly many die trying to get here for those very blessings every day. You’re asking my kids to be bitter instead of gracious; angry instead of grateful. Then you wonder where the “angry black man/woman” stereotype comes from and why it’s so hard to shed.
Let’s Not Create ‘Black Privilege’
Do I have to explain to you how difficult it is to raise responsible, respectful, resourceful children when everyone is telling them they needn’t be any of those things because their skin color is more important than their attitudes? When my son walks in to his first job interview I don’t want those employers to wring their hands over how to handle this young black man (so no one thinks they’re being racists!) or even hire him just because he’s black. I want him to be seen as any other candidate.
If he is exceptional, I want it to be because he has worked very hard to become exceptional, not just because he’s black. That’s insulting. It is the very opposite of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “dream” in which people are judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin.
We want white people to stop looking at us as “others” while demanding they pay special attention to our race as a condition of every interaction with us. In effect, we’re asking them to replace “white privilege” with “black privilege.”
Well, count me out of all this ridiculous microaggressing and special snowflake weirdness. I am not raising my children to be privileged, even though as middle-class suburbanites they currently live one of the most privileged lives on the planet (as do you if you are reading this from ANYWHERE in America).
Get a Life, People
I’m raising my kids to be humble, to earn their way to the things they want, to be respectful of those in authority and those whom they choose to serve as Christians and generous Americans. I’m raising them see themselves as a part of whatever community in which they choose to put down roots. They are not “others.” They are Americans, and if they’re the only black kids in a community full of people who are different from them I expect them to adapt and succeed, not melt into a puddle of tears.
There is not one thing they cannot do in this country if they are willing to put in the time and the effort. They have every available comfort and right. They can vote (when they are of age), work, earn, go to school, drive, marry who they want, eat where they want. Asking them to suddenly demand other people think about their race before their personhood is asking them to regress. You’re asking me to raise people who look to others to validate them instead of looking to their God, themselves, and the people who actually know and love them. This is unacceptable. Worse, it’s childish.
Are the people who made that Gap ad racists? I have no idea, since I’ve not met one person involved in its creation. Are they insensitive? Maybe. Does it matter? Nope.
Tomorrow my kids will wake up do their chores and their homework, and their parents will go to work and we’ll eat dinner in our home with our pets and our Internet and our comfy chairs and we’ll dream together about our futures. Just like we do every day.