Blackish: A Black Mother’s View

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When the show Black-ish first premiered I received text message after text message from friends saying, “Girl, this show is all about you and Jason!” First, let me say, “Tracee Ellis Ross, if you’re reading this, you’re my best friend…in my head!”

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Yup, I decided to squeeze my family into the shot!

At the core, Black-ish follows a modern day, middle class, African American family. The parents have reached a perceived level of success, and they live in a world were cultural assimilation has caused Dre (the father) to try to create a sense of ethnic identity for the members of his family that will allow them to honor their background while preparing them to embrace the future. Of course, this leads to numerous episodes of hilarious awkwardness and challenges to stereotypes.

Sometimes, I feel like Black-ish is taking pages from my life. I grew up on the West Side of Baltimore. My earliest memories are from Sandtown-Winchester Apartments. I remember there being more dirt than grass, and no matter how clean my mother kept our house the roaches were still familiar guests. The one car we had stayed on cement blocks, so we walked or took the bus everywhere. That is why I walk so fast now. The worst thing a child can do is lag behind a black mother. I wore a house-key around my neck from the age of 8 and I was responsible for taking care of my little brother and cousins (some who were older than me). My family was made up of fighters, hustlers, people who may not have had college degrees but they knew how to work the system in order to provide for those they loved. With that as my foundation, and a mother who stressed the importance of “education”, I grew up having street and book smarts. Fast forward 30 years later.

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My four year old has never taken public transportation, when he gets into a car he expects that he’s iPad and Nabi are fully charged, and that an organic Apple, Pea & Spinach pouch is on chill in my purse. He’s never been to a corner store because we live in a housing community full of cul-de-sacs. When I take my son back to where I grew-up the difference is striking. S Dot is mild-mannered and the thought of fighting drives him to tears. As a mother, growing up as I did, I am often scared that my son is not “hard” enough. Last night my husband and I had a conversation and it went something like this:

Me: I just want S Dot to be able to handle himself. I’m not saying, “He has to be hood. I just want him to be aware that the streets exist”.

Him: You know he’s 4 right? Babe, we are he’s parents. We are here to teach him, guide him. He will learn from us and our experiences. At, the end of the day, I’m more concerned with our son’s having “good credit” than “street credit”.

Me: I know. I know. But, you’ve seen those sheltered children. I want S Dot to be well-rounded. I am shaped by where I’m from.

Him: Dionne, you can keep it real without roaches. Go to sleep!

And, there you have it. At the end of the day, when it comes to raising a family, especially a black mother raising three black boys, your focus should be on surrounding your children with people with varied life experiences who have your child’s best interests in mind. It takes a “village” for a reason people!

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Granted, you may still encounter comical situations, like your son getting into your friends car for the first time and saying, “Mommy where’s the TV?!”, but that just becomes another “teaching moment.”

My diary entry is this, “There are three rules for raising a well-rounded child. Exposure. Exposure. Exposure.”

PS.

I’ll let you know how mine turn out. 🙂

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