Why I don’t want to be “Fat Dad” anymore

The reality is that I am not happy being fat. I don’t like the way I look in the mirror when my clothes are missing in action. I don’t like getting winded when I do regular tasks like walking up stairs, picking up my kids, or moving in general. I don’t like hating how I look in every picture I take, because my face, or stomach, or side, or legs look huge.

With my kids, I am notorious for saying that I am “fat” nonchalantly in a funny, self-deprecating way. I often tell them “Don’t be fat like daddy!” as a warning of what can happen if they eat too much and don’t exercise. I do all of this, but I can see I am sending mixed messages. I often say this with a smile and a confidence not befitting someone who actually regrets his life choices.

The reality is that I am not happy being fat. I don’t like the way I look in the mirror when my clothes are missing in action. I don’t like getting winded when I do regular tasks like walking up stairs, picking up my kids, or moving in general. I don’t like hating how I look in every picture I take, because my face, or stomach, or side, or legs look huge. Mostly, I hate this feeling that this is how I am supposed to look since I am getting older.

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“My greatest fear is that my sons listen to me, look at me and decide that it is perfectly normal to grow increasingly unhealthy when they get older.”

My greatest fear is that my sons listen to me, look at me and decide that it is perfectly normal to grow increasingly unhealthy when they get older. They will just jokingly tell their kids what I tell them and think that being overweight and making terrible eating choices is their right and privilege as a man. I think about what James Baldwin said about children being terrible listeners but never failing to do exactly what their parents show them. I can honestly say I have been a terrible example regarding health, eating and fitness. I know that continuing down this path is a death sentence at worst and a life of health complications and burden upon my family at best.

Black men develop diabetes at rates eighty percent higher than white men and are almost twice as likely as white men to die from heart disease.  The rates of cancers and kidney disease are also astronomical when compared to the broader population.  While there are socio-economic factors that contribute to our negative health statistics, I believe the major factors at play are poor eating habits and lack of meaningful daily exercise.  We can control what we consume. I can control what healthy foods I eat and what poisonous processed foods I avoid.  I have allowed myself to establish a dangerous pattern of not caring about the nutritional value of my food, as long as it satisfies my taste buds, while I sit and mindlessly eat and drink.

“Black men develop diabetes at rates eighty percent higher than white men and are almost twice as likely as white men to die from heart disease.  The rates of cancers and kidney disease are also astronomical when compared to the broader population.”

My father passed away suddenly last year of a heart attack.  He was just 61 years old.  He had been overweight for years, but was in great shape most of his youth going into early adulthood.  It was after he became a father that he started to gain weight and eventually stopped working out like he used to.  The thing I think about over and over is the fact that when my father was my age he was not as close to how heavy I currently am.  He gained weight over time, but not as drastically or in the dimensions that I have.  If I don’t make a significant change in my habits then I may not even make it to the age he was and I know that would deeply affect my family and would not be a way to truly honor his memory.

So I have decided to make a change. I am committing to losing 100 pounds by Thanksgiving Day (November 23 this year). To do this I am going to cut out sodas, processed fruit juices, junk food of all kinds and processed foods in general. I will commit to drinking large amounts of water weekly, working out at least 20 minutes per day, walking everyday as a routine, and consistently eating healthy throughout the months. This is my #ThanksgivingChallenge and I am excited to start this! This is for me, my sons, my wife, and for anyone else who needs to make a change but is afraid to start. Walk with me on this journey and let’s see where we end up on the other side!

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About The Author

Rick McCray is a maRAMrried father of three amazing sons. He is also a proud graduate of Duke University where he holds a BA in History and African/African American History, and Howard University School of Law. He is also a regular commentator on the In The Black podcast.  Rick is passionate about our history and helping to educate our community concerning the great contributions of people of color to the world. You can find Rick on Twitter and Instagram @RealRickMcCray.

Minute Mentor: Social Worker and Motivational Speaker Shameeka Mattis-Pinard

Minute Mentor provides a space for real people to tell their stories so if you or your little one is in search of mentorship on how to achieve their dreams, you can look no further than right here! Sometimes the best inspiration comes from seeing someone that looks like you achieving similar goals.

Minute Mentor is a series of posts profiling real people achieving their dreams. It began with the simple idea that “seeing is being.”  When cofounders Rick and Faye’s oldest son was born, it was clear he was musically inclined. He was playing piano by ear at age 4 and neither of them ever even picked up an instrument! When Faye remembered an old neighbor who had gone on to become a Julliard trained musician, she immediately reached out to him and said, “What do we do?”  He patiently answered all of her questions on how best to nurture her budding musician.

Minute Mentor provides a space for real people to tell their stories so if you or your little one is in search of mentorship on how to achieve their dreams, you can look no further than right here! Sometimes the best inspiration comes from seeing someone that looks like you achieving similar goals.

If you have any questions or comments for the featured guest, leave a comment, and we will do our best to bring it to their attention! Happy imagining!

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Name: Shameeka Mattis-Pinard, LMSW

Age: 35

Occupation: Social Worker

Education: Master’s Social Work ’05 University of Pennsylvania; Bachelor’s Degree (English & Sociology) ’03 SUNY Binghamton

Career Level:

  • Entry
  • Mid-level
  • Executive
  • Entrepreneur
  • Retired

How hard do you work? 

  • Lots of Leisure Time
  • Typical 40-50hr Workweek
  • More than Average
  • I never stop working

Lifestyle/Income

  • Side Hustle/Didn’t Quit My Day Job
  • Getting By
  • My bills are Paid with Some Room for Fun
  • You get a car! You get a car!

Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from?

I’m from Fort Greene, Brooklyn.  I was raised in the Ingersoll House i.e. “the projects.”  I currently reside in NYC. I’m a creative music lover, married and love my puppy.

What kind of student were you?

Since I can remember, I was an A student when I applied myself, but an A-/B+ student when I procrastinated or didn’t study well, which was often.  I was always curious, questioning, intrigued by learning, a strong writer, and creative.  I was rowdy and talkative, but astute.  So, [I was] a cool brainiac that would fight or flip at the drop of a dime, but whom teachers loved and scolded equally.  I also made friends with everyone and have some of those friendships to this day.

I was a rough kid with a sharp mind and even sharper mouth, but I believed I could be successful because [my] mentors were my daily examples.

Describe your current job/jobs.

I’m the Director of Programs for a victim service and alternative to incarceration program based in restorative justice in NYC for young adults who commit violent crime.  Responsible parties get a chance to make amends with the people they hurt and instead of going to prison, they remain free without felonies on their records if they complete the program.  I supervise the counselors, develop anti-violence curriculum, interface with the courts, set organizational policies, and build community partnerships.  I’m also a motivational speaker, educator and writer.

What education level is required for your job? Tests? Certificates? Years of School?

A master’s is required for my position.  College graduates from the associate to bachelor level are employed where I work.  However, having a Master of Social Work degree enabled me to make more decisions, have great autonomy, supervise anyone, have leverage and get paid very well.

Did you have a mentor/mentors? How did you meet?

To this day, I’m still in contact with my mentors and close to many of them.  Since I was age 3 or 4, I had mostly Black women in my life that helped me discover myself, love myself, aim high and never settle.  I was a rough kid with a sharp mind and even sharper mouth, but I believed I could be successful because these mentors were my daily examples.  I met most mentors in school, but a few connected with me when I attended church and recreational activities.

How did you get your current job?

I worked in criminal justice in Philadelphia after finishing graduate school, grew tired of those particular jobs and wanted to move back to NYC, particularly to Brooklyn, where I knew my field had innovative opportunities.  I also knew I deserved more money and had talents to expand upon, so I spoke to friends & former professors that encouraged me to consider a prominent criminal justice advocacy and research agency.  When I received an interview, I researched the agency and program, brought my A-game, and the rest is history.  I began my job the day after I helped to elect President Obama to his first term, so that helped it feel extra special.  Talk about a fresh start!

It’s difficult but life-changing work, so I surround myself with people who are good at what they do and who push me to be great.

Is your job family-friendly?

Yes, it is.  Plenty of children are welcome and other family members too.  I’ve even been able to bring my dog to work.

Do you find your work fulfilling?

It is fulfilling, but not just because I get to work with incredible young adults, or because of the impact I’m able to make in their lives.  It’s fulfilling because I aim to do my best, ask for and accept feedback, hold myself to the same standards I request of others, including my clients, and I have fun along the way whenever possible.  It’s difficult but life-changing work, so I surround myself with people who are good at what they do and who push me to be great.  I work hard, so my social network of family and friends helps me stay balanced.

Did you always know you wanted to pursue your current career path?

I was naturally drawn to justice work, teaching and counseling as a kid, but I also like to help solve difficult issues.  So I was convinced I would pursue many careers, but social work just seemed portable and full of options by the time I was a junior in college.  I genuinely liked its principles.  So far, I’m not disappointed in the choices I made and path I took.  I stay open to all opportunities because I have many skills and know how to make connections with anyone.

To all my young people, think of the problems you want to solve, not what you want to be or do.  Have fun, learn how to communicate effectively, and remember that you are limitless.

What, if any, setbacks have you faced? How did you overcome them to accomplish your goals?

I used to fight daily as a kid.  Then I argued all the time because I always thought I was right and didn’t know my worth or appreciate other’s differences.  I developed a healthy self-esteem in spite of my poverty as a young black girl and I channeled my talents through academics and sports, surrounding myself with people who encouraged me to shine.  I learned how to be humble.  I was the first person in my family to graduate college and that was huge because both my parents were functionally illiterate and didn’t finish high school.  However, my mom died right after I graduated from college, and I grieved her absence a long time before learning to accept that death is a part of life.  It [was] then [that] I remembered the gifts she instilled in me and understood how they would never leave me.  I don’t forget the people who helped me and the gifts God gave me to share with the world.  I am diligent about asking for help from those closest to me when needed and I keep it real no matter where I go.

What advice would you give a parent of a child/young adult interested in pursuing a job in your field? What advice would you give them on pursuing any career goal?

Don’t push your children to do ANYTHING.  Be patient.  Encourage their curiosity, support their uniqueness and praise them for incremental efforts and success.  Your child is not one size fits all.  Also, your children are not carbon copies of you because they were born as whole people with dreams and purpose.  To all my young people, think of the problems you want to solve, not what you want to be or do.  Have fun, learn how to communicate effectively, and remember that you are limitless.  Don’t rush to grow up.  Have authentic relationships with yourself and others and be honest with yourself always.   Surround yourself with people who are doing productive things because you gain motivation from their success and it generates your own.

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About The Author

Faye McCray is anMcCray_AuthorPhoto (1) attorney by day and writer all the time. Her work has been featured on My Brown Baby, AfroPunk, AfroNews, For HarrietMadame NoireBlack Girl NerdsBlack and Married with Kids, and other popular publications.  Faye also has a number of short stories and a full length novel available for purchase on Amazon.  Most importantly, Faye is a proud wife and mother to three beautiful and talented young boys who she is fiercely passionate about raising. You can find Faye on Twitter @fayewrites and on the web at fayemccray.com.

Teaching Our Boys About Sexual Assault

We live in a society permissive of the objectification of women and steeped heavily in the culture of rape. Especially in our communities. Not only do I want to raise men who never perpetuate these crimes, I want them to be the type of men who actively stand up against them.

When I was 18, I was sexually assaulted. It was early in my first year of college and I was attending a party off campus with a group of girls I barely knew. A man I didn’t know grabbed and groped me from behind, and when I broke free and tried to defend myself, he and his friends surrounded me.  I was able to run out of the party and get a cab. I cried the whole way back to my dorm.  I have to admit, even now, it feels foolish to call what happened to me sexual assault. It was 1999 and at 18, I just considered it a bad experience.  I assumed it was part of being a woman. By the next morning, I had even decided I was lucky.  It could have been worse. For so many women, it was so much worse.

The fact is, sexual assault is “any type of forced or coerced sexual contact or behavior that happens without consent.” It can include rape, attempted rape, molestation, unwelcome touching, sexual harassment or threats.  According to the Office of Women’s Health, “in the United States, nearly one in five women has been raped and almost half of women have experienced another type of sexual assault.”

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This fall, my husband and I are expecting our third boy. When I found out he was a boy, I have to admit, a small part of me, was relieved.  Though living as a Black man in American society has it’s own risks, I knew I’d never have to worry about them being ogled in the street as adolescents or insulted when they refused to reciprocate a stranger’s advances or be groped as college freshman at a party.  I allowed myself to believe that sexual assault was a “girl problem” and not something my boys would have to worry about.  Recent headlines have proved my comfort misguided again and again.

In many ways, there rests a greater onus on us, boy parents, to make sure the world is a safer place for our girls.  We are obligated to teach our boys accountability, even when no one is holding them accountable.  We are obligated to teach our boys about consent, about boundaries and about respect.  Perhaps just as importantly, we are obligated to teach our boys not to be bystanders.

When people hear I am a mother of three boys, they use adjectives like “crazy” and “wild” to describe what my sons must be like.  They depict my boys as “full of energy” and “hard to control.”  While the energy level of my young boys is undeniable, I am always hesitant to wholeheartedly subscribe.  There is this underlying idea that their gender somehow renders then irrational and unable to regulate their behavior.  I realize this kind of thinking is what contributes to our society’s failure to place accountability on our sons. As if their masculinity makes them incapable of thought or reason.  It’s the same line of thinking that calls a presidential candidates musings about sexual assault “locker room talk” or informs a system that calls a young college student’s vicious rape of an unconscious woman behind a dumpster “20 minutes of action.

I realize now that my misguided idea that I could be “less” worried about my boys when it comes to sexual assault was dangerous. In many ways, there rests a greater onus on us, boy parents, to make sure the world is a safer place for our girls.  We are obligated to teach our boys accountability, even when no one is holding them accountable.  We are obligated to teach our boys about consent, about boundaries and about respect.  We are obligated to teach our boys about self-control and responsibility. Perhaps just as importantly, we are obligated to teach our boys not to be bystanders. We live in a society permissive of the objectification of women and steeped heavily in the culture of rape.  Especially in our communities. Not only do I want to raise men who never perpetuate these crimes, I want them to be the type of men who actively stand up against them.

Now, as a mother, over a decade since I ran from that party in tears, I can’t help but wonder  what conversations the mother of the man who assaulted me had with him when he was a boy. What conversations the mothers of the men who stood idly by and witnessed my fear had with them.  What examples their fathers set and how they treated the women around them. I can’t help but wonder if it would have made a difference in the man they chose to be. If it would have spared me the stain of their memory.  I know our children ultimately become adults with free will.  They will inevitably make choices that are contrary to the lessons we have taught them.  However, their free will doesn’t negate our obligation to try.  We all bear the burden of changing the way women are viewed in this society.  That task necessarily begins with doing a better job raising our boys.

 

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About The Author

Faye McCray is anMcCray_AuthorPhoto (1) attorney by day and writer all the time. Her work has been featured on My Brown Baby, AfroPunk, AfroNews, For HarrietMadame NoireBlack Girl NerdsBlack and Married with Kids, and other popular publications.  Faye also has a number of short stories and a full length novel available for purchase on Amazon.  Most importantly, Faye is a proud wife and mother to three beautiful and talented young boys who she is fiercely passionate about raising. You can find Faye on Twitter @fayewrites and on the web at fayemccray.com.

Must-Read: A Candid Conversation with a Retired NYPD Officer on Surviving an Encounter with Police

While I believe confronting the issue of police violence requires systemic change, I also know that I need to prepare my children to deal with the realities of police violence while we work towards change. I fluctuate between feeling resentful and resigned to this fact. To better prepare myself and my sons, I asked Thomas W. Higdon, Sr., a retired New York City Police Officer with 36 years of experience, for his advice on surviving a police encounter.

As a mom of two, soon to be three boys, sometimes I find myself overwhelmed with anxiety about my sons’ safety as they grow older. My eldest son is 9 years old, and he is tall. He is often mistaken for 12 years old which is the same age as Tamir Rice, and one year younger than Tyre King, two children who were killed by police in separate incidents in Ohio. While I believe confronting the issue of police violence requires systemic change, I also know that I need to prepare my children to deal with the realities of police violence while we work towards change. I fluctuate between feeling resentful and resigned to this fact.  To better prepare myself and my sons, I asked Thomas W. Higdon, Sr., a retired New York City Police Officer with 36 years of experience, for his advice on surviving a police encounter.

1. Describe your experience.

I served in the New York City Police Department (NYPD) for 36 years.  For 25 years, I was a Supervisor or Commander in the Department. I patrolled some of the most violent precincts in New York City. I worked as a patrol supervisor in the rank of Sergeant as well as Lieutenant. I commanded various plain clothes units including the Anti-Crime (precinct violent crime unit),  NYPD Gang unit, and Principle Crime unit in the Intelligence Division. I’ve taken various police investigation courses. I’m a graduate of the FBI academy. I also have a Masters in Criminal Justice from St. John’s University.

2. Some argue that most cops are good. In your opinion, is police brutality a national problem or a series of isolated incidents?

Are some cops good? Let me just say that most police officers are professionals. Do most officers go on patrol with intent to brutalize people? No; however, there are some officers who abuse their authority. Based on today’s climate, I would definitively say we have a national problem. The police are a reflection of the country.  The country has a race problem and so do police departments. How do we change the heart of a racist? I believe only God can.

“Based on today’s climate, I would definitively say we have a national problem. The police are a reflection of the country.  The country has a race problem and so do police departments.”

3. How do you feel like it should be addressed? Within police departments? By law makers? Federal agencies (for example, The Department of Justice)? Prosecutors?

The police departments cannot police themselves. It has to be an outside agency, independent of the jurisdiction in which the department operates. I strongly believe federal agencies and outside prosecutors are necessary.

4. I often find myself stuck on where to start when I begin to talk to my children. On one hand, I want them to be able to trust that the police exist to protect them. On the other hand, I am afraid that if they interact with police, they may be unsafe. Where do you feel the conversation begins for parents?

I believe that people must understand that the police department is comprised of men and women who are trained professionals yet they come to the job from various backgrounds and with plenty of bias. We should educate our kids at an early age, teaching them right from wrong, and their rights as citizens. While on patrol early in my career, people would come to me on the street with their kids and present me as a disciplinarian. That would upset me.  I felt that it was one of the reasons young people disliked cops.  Parents displayed us as bogeymen.

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5. What should they know about interacting with police?

Remain calm no matter what the circumstance and follow the instructions of the officer(s). Know your rights/laws concerning search and seizure as well as your right to remain silent (read more about your Miranda rights here). The officers are not your friends. They are law enforcement officers trying to solve cases. There are plenty innocent people who are in jail that haven’t committed crime.

6. What suggestions would you have for remaining safe during an interaction with police?

Stay calm and follow instructions. Never run or move unnecessarily. I often told my sons, try to remember the officer(s) name and shield number without asking for it, if possible. Also, use technology available to you, i.e. live stream.  Just keep in mind, the officer may very well be aggravated by it.

7. Often deadly police interactions begin when someone is “suspected” of a crime or misidentified. How would suggest someone handle being stopped by police when mistaken for a crime they did not commit?

Cooperate, cooperate, cooperate.  Once you have identified an officer as being one, he has the authority to question you if he has reasonable suspicion that a crime has been committed and the suspect fits your description. Unfortunately, in Black and Latino communities, this has been abused. Black and Latino communities are patrolled differently from white communities. Laws are enforced more aggressively.  For example, a disorderly conduct offense in a White community is treated as a violation. The same scenario in a Black community would lead to a more serious charge, e.g., riot.

“Remain calm no matter what the circumstance, and follow the instructions of the officer(s). Know your rights/laws concerning search and seizure as well as your right to remain silent. The officers are not your friends. They are law enforcement officers trying to solve cases. There are plenty innocent people who are in jail that haven’t committed crime… [L]ive to fight another day!”

8. Does your advice change for someone stopped in a car or on foot?

Basically the same, cooperate.  However, when an individual is in a vehicle he is not completely visible so he/she must make every effort to stay as still as possible (don’t move unnecessarily) and keep your hands where they can be seen at all times.  Also, only speak when you are spoken too.

9. In today’s climate, what would you tell your sons about dealing with police?

Remain calm no matter what and cooperate, cooperate and cooperate. As I said earlier identify the officer(s) as best you can, and live to fight another day!

10. Any other advice?

The best advice I would give a parent is to raise your kids to respect authority, regardless of the individual in the position. Teach them morals and empathy. I believe only God can change the hearts of man and in order for God to do that we must have a relationship with Him.

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About The Author

Faye McCray is anMcCray_AuthorPhoto (1) attorney by day and writer all the time. Her work has been featured on My Brown Baby, AfroPunk, AfroNews, For HarrietMadame NoireBlack Girl NerdsBlack and Married with Kids, and other popular publications.  Faye also has a number of short stories and a full length novel available for purchase on Amazon.  Most importantly, Faye is a proud wife and mother to three beautiful and talented young boys who she is fiercely passionate about raising. You can find Faye on Twitter @fayewrites and on the web at fayemccray.com.

Patriotism and Our Children

As a thinking child of color being raised and educated in the United States, it doesn’t take long to recognize your place in this country’s celebrated history. During the 1787 Constitution Convention, the same folks that declared “all men are created equal” also drafted the Three-Fifths Compromise which counted non-voting enslaved Africans as three-fifths of a person. Those same men denied women the right to vote. This conflict between principle and practice was a theme throughout history and still resonates today.

Speaking in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in February 2008, while her husband was still campaigning for President, the future first lady Michelle Obama stunned many when she declared, “… for the first time in my adult life I am proud of my country and not  just because Barack has done well but because I think people are hungry for change and I have been desperate to see our country moving in that direction and just not feeling so alone in my frustration and disappointment.”  While during the rally her comments were met with applause, almost immediately the media pounced.  People questioned her patriotism and her allegiance to a country her husband was campaigning to represent.  Things worked out.  However, I remember thinking at the time how much I valued her honesty in that moment.  It clearly wasn’t scripted and frankly, I don’t know any intellectual who didn’t know exactly what she meant.

With all the recent controversy over Colin Kaepernick (the football player calling national attention to police killings of unarmed people of color by lowering himself to one knee during the National Anthem), it has reignited the debate about what patriotism is and who has the right to exercise it.

According to Merriam-Webster, patriotism is defined simply as the “love for or devotion to one’s country.” The word is derived from the latin word “patriota” which means countryman.  The noun “patriotism” began to popularize in 18th century Europe to inspire a love and loyalty of their country in students.  Interestingly, during the American revolution, revolutionaries, those fighting for American independence, were dubbed “Patriots.”  Although they were rejecting the ruling British monarch, they were committed to the principles of republicanism which held liberty and unalienable individual rights as central values, making white men sovereign and rejecting monarchy, aristocracy, inherited political power and corruption.

As a thinking child of color being raised and educated in the United States, it doesn’t take long to recognize your place in this country’s celebrated history.  During the 1787 Constitutional Convention, the same folks that declared “all men are created equal” also drafted the Three-Fifths Compromise which counted non-voting enslaved Africans as three-fifths of a person.  Those same men denied women the right to vote.  This conflict between principle and practice was a theme throughout history and still resonates today.

“All I could think while he was bellowing out “land of the free and home of the brave” was that the song was written in 1814.  His ancestors, while brave, were anything but free.  Was it my responsibility in that moment to interrupt the song my then five year old was so proud to sing to me and tell him the truth?”

Like most parents, I feel a responsibility to my children to tell them the truth.  However, at six and nine, it isn’t always easy to know how much truth they can handle.  Our history in this country can be complex.  Our current primary education system doesn’t really allow for a discussion of that complexity.  It is Eurocentric and designed to create loyalists, much in the same way the old British monarch envisioned it.  As a parent, I want to reveal those complexities and challenge my children to think.  However, I struggle with revealing the truth to them in a way that doesn’t burden them or make them feel anger and shame.  Last year, my middle baby began Kindergarten.  I remember how enthusiastic he was when he came home and insisted on singing the new song he had learned in music class.  It was “The Star Spangled Banner,”our national anthem.  All I could think while he was bellowing out “land of the free and home of the brave” was that the song was written in 1814.  His ancestors, while brave, were anything but free.  Was it my responsibility in that moment to interrupt the song my then five year old was so proud to sing to me and tell him the truth?

In present day society, as a mother of three brown boys I would be lying if I didn’t admit loving them involves a considerable amount of worry.  Police corruption and violence is a reality.  The school to prison pipeline is a reality.  Mass incarceration is a reality.  All of which disproportionately impact humans that look like them.  I can’t deny my disappointment in a government and citizenship that makes it a habit of looking the other way rather than committing to its own founding principles and insisting on change.  Watching Kaepernick take a knee and a multitude of athletes follow suit, I can’t help but recognize the act as a direct affront to that conflict I recognized as a child.  The physical act calls attention to the disparities between principle and practice. Viewing the act through a parental gaze, I can only hope that my boys would make a similar choice one day.  Although they may never have the opportunity to take a knee on a national stage, I would hope they would question the reality of the world around them and be brave enough to take action, much like this country’s Founding Fathers did even if our people were left on the side lines. To recall the 2008 words of our first lady, I have “been desperate to see our country moving in [the direction of change]” and to not feel “so alone in my frustration and disappointment.”

“If no one ever criticized their governments, there would be no abolition of slavery, no civil rights movement and frankly, no United States of America.”

Which begs the question, what do I teach my children about patriotism? Is it to stand on the side of those that say America “right or wrong”? Those that hurl racial epithets and demand revocation of citizenship to those that hold America accountable to its own standards? Or is it to stand on the side of those that recognize the complexity and disappointment that can sometimes go along with American citizenship? Those that recognize that there is still an underclass of people brandished to the side lines? Leading question, right? Obviously for me, the answer is to stand on the side of the thinkers.  Blind loyalty above criticism is the antithesis of patriotism.  If no one ever criticized their governments, there would be no abolition of slavery, no civil rights movement and frankly, no United States of America.

I want my children to question everything and challenge the status quo. I want them to seek knowledge even if it means stepping outside of what makes them comfortable and admitting when they are wrong.  I didn’t stop my five year old from singing the National Anthem.  However, as my children get older, I hope to act as their teacher, unfolding the truths hidden in history.  I hope to encourage their questions, their skepticism and their empathy for the citizens left out or addressed as footnotes.  I hope we can be truth seekers together, since I am the product of the same education system.  I hope with that truth comes criticism. In fact, I expect it. If one day those choices are met with the label of unpatriotic, by today’s definition, I can only be proud.

 

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About The Author

Faye McCray is anMcCray_AuthorPhoto (1) attorney by day and writer all the time. Her work has been featured on My Brown Baby, AfroPunk, AfroNews, For HarrietMadame NoireBlack Girl NerdsBlack and Married with Kids, and other popular publications.  Faye also has a number of short stories and a full length novel available for purchase on Amazon.  Most importantly, Faye is a proud wife and mother to three beautiful and talented young boys who she is fiercely passionate about raising. You can find Faye on Twitter @fayewrites and on the web at fayemccray.com.