Tuesday, December 2, 2014

on raising and nurturing children and how we can learn from the ferguson incident

(warning: this is long and i'm sorry if it doesn't make a ton of sense, it's what's on my mind!)

i don't want to use this blog as a political platform or whatever. truth is, i'm not a very involved person when it comes to social movements and keeping up with the hard news. i have SO MUCH going on, at least it feels that way and adding "reading the new york times" and other news outlets is at the bottom of the bottom of my to-do list. actually, it's not even on the list. but this ferguson issue, this ferguson issue. geeeeeeez. i've had such a hard time sorting through my feelings about it for a few reasons. and by now, the issue is probably past the news cycles and the facebook status shares, but they are still dealing with the aftermath out there and in a lot of black communities. and i'm not trying to be all, "look at me and how the ferguson incident affects me! i'm not black and i live in a very white place but i am considered colored!" but isn't the point to care? to dig deep down and feel this? but first...

here's a little background for you:

my mom is tongan and my dad is palauan but i was raised in austin, texas. there are neither tongans or palauans in austin and the ones that are there, my mom recruited from her immediate family to live there. maybe there are more, we just don't know them. because we were very culturally and ethnically isolated from other people like us, our parents raised me to be very american. what does that mean? i think it just means to be raised not seeing color, being aware of it, but not letting it hold you back in what you accomplish in school, work, in life. it also made it very easy to get along with literally everyone. i have my parents to thank for this, who, because of their passion for missionary work and love of the gospel and building the kingdom, left our doors wide open to literally everyone and anyone. my dad was also a bishop, and had a tradition to invite new families into the ward over. he'd often invite a couple of them over to meet each other and become friends. genius, i tell you.  

we went to a magnet middle school (and my siblings went to a magnet high school). those programs were embedded in inner city schools and kids came from all over the city to attend. there was SO MUCH DIVERSITY and i loved it. i had friends of all kinds. but i couldnt really identify specifically with one group because there was no one else like me. and i really loved that, my uniqueness. 

fast forward to the long-winded point of this post.

i've read quite a few things on ferguson, mostly blogs and the educated opinions of different people. some of them i don't agree with at all and some of them really hit home.

then i read this (please forgive all the "f" words, i hate that swear the most out of all the swears!) and appreciated a really honest post from the whiter side of things because for a lot of people who do want to care, they don't know how they can relate because they are so far removed physically and socially. (utah, i'm talking about like, all of you).

"What that tells me is that, for some of you, the destruction in Ferguson was not a “Never Forget” situation, or a national tragedy, or even something to be particularly concerned about … because the bodies in the streets did not look like yours, or your family’s. Because it looks like “other”. Because the problems faced by Black America are not the same as the problems faced by White America, and therefore, they aren’t worth considering."

the articles that really hit home though, were the heartbreaking articles written from the perspective of parents (like this one) and the heartache they experience because this ferguson incident perpetuates itself and is obviously not an isolated one and they can't change how they parent their children because of it. 

"I don't need to know much more than that statistic to know that I need to be vigilant with my son. No toy guns, ever. Teach him to address adults with respect. And if he has a problem with authority, he follows orders then brings his complaints to me so I can get to the bottom and handle it.
I will teach him to trust police, because he can't afford not to. Fear, and the urge to fight or flight could ultimately cost his life.
I'm sure there will be times where he'll get angry with me for not allowing him to do things his white friends do, but the fact of the matter is, he can't get away with the same things. It's a privilege I took from him by giving him my black genes. And until our country begins to value the lives of all of our children equally, this is how it has to be."
i can't say that i can entirely relate to the fears they have when they send their children to the corner store or out with friends because i live in a very LDS community. like the most LDS community you can imagine. it's pretty safe. i attend a tongan ward so my social circle is much bigger than just having a circle of white friends (i have really amazing white friends btw). but now because of this ferguson incident and all of the attention it's getting, i am starting to think about how i have to raise my children. what am i going to say to them when i can see injustices and unfairness and discrimination but they can't they will face in school and with friends? or when my son/daughter gets older and wants to marry a white person and their parents and family members have some resistance but won't come out and say directly that they don't want their child marrying a polynesian?  

so how? how in the world can you teach about this to small children in a church class? they can barely pay attention to a two minute lesson! i started making a bullet point list of all the ways that we can learn from this and apply it to nursery in how we teach children cause that's what you do with a blog, and that list just kept growing and sounded so repetitive and self-righteous and...geez we have SO MUCH responsibility as parents and as teachers and leaders of small children.  but really, it comes down to this:

take what you will from it then ask yourself this tiny list of questions:

1 - are you gossiping or making fun of others in front of your children and/or the children you teach? 
2 - do your children and/or the children you teach see you share? 
3 - do your children and/or the children you teach see you serve? 
4 - do your children and/or the children you teach see you love? 

you may not have a lot of diversity in your area, but if you can instill within your children and the children you teach the principles of love and service, that can go a long long way. oh they are so, so sensitive to the spirit and can feel the sincerity of our words and actions. so even though this isn't much, at least it's something. 

*update: i originally wrote this post a couple days after the ferguson verdict came out and then just a few days ago the eric garner thing happened. i was even more disheartened about everything. it feels hopeless, it really does. if you have a chance to read this article, read it. then ask yourself, what attitude do you have, why do you have it, and what can you do to make the world a better place? not just better for you, but better for those around you? 


  1. Um, Hello, I love every bit of this. My story has been aching in my heart. Thanks for your insight.

  2. Thank you. I love it all. You are so right on. Love you.

  3. Good thoughts. Amen to your questions. During a primary program a few years ago, a girl shared how she was sealed to her family in the temple. My sister was shocked to learn the girl was adopted. She leaned over and asked my mom if she knew the girl was adopted. The girl is black and her family is white. My sister was 10 or 11 and color didn't even register. All the same to her. Children should be teaching us.