“Lessons Your Parents May Not Have Taught You” #racism #black #writerwednesday #unconsciousbias #blackhistorymonth

For #BlackHistoryMonth, I’m sharing some of my thoughts…



A few weeks ago, a “Grey’s Anatomy” episode (Season 14, “Personal Jesus”) had my full attention.

I also had tears in my eyes during those last 10 minutes when Bailey and husband Ben teach Tuck  “how to behave” when stopped by the police. And yes, I said “when”, not “if” because getting stopped is eventually just a matter of time.

The scene perfectly depicted the type of  “Talk” many of us received growing up and which I referred to below in my old post under #1, 4, and 5. If you find this unbelievable, take a few minutes and read the comments left by fellow bloggers.

If you want to see the “Grey’s Anatomy’ scene I’m talking about, click here and scroll to the very last video. Hopefully, the video will still be active by the time you click.


“Lessons Your Parents May Not Have Taught You” – Marquessa, July 2016

As children, our parents taught us a number of life lessons at a very young age. Whenever we would gather around the dinner table, they would regale us with stories of their upbringing, childhood and their day at work and in return, we would share all the details of what had happened during our school day.

But being raised by vigilant parents, oftentimes those dinnertime conversations would be sprinkled with “lessons about life” that were important for us to know as First Generation children of immigrants growing up Black in a mainly White and French speaking environment – an environment where being “outside the norm” wasn’t always well-received.

These “lessons” were rooted in real-life incidents experienced by those in our small circle of family, friends and friends of friends.

Growing up, your parents taught you lessons too.

But different teachers provide their students with different content material based on the classes they took in the school of life:

  1. When stopped by the police (not “if” you are stopped by the police), keep your hands visible on the wheel and do exactly what you are told. Shooting first and asking questions later are the rules of the game. Dead men tell no tales and when you’re dead, only one side of the story will be told and it won’t be yours. Remember that…
  2. When you’re in a store, never put your hands in your pockets and avoid opening your purse until you’re in front of the cashier. The ones that hate you because of your color will not give you the benefit of the doubt and will be quick to treat you as a thief. Remember that…
  3. Excellence is the best deterrent to racism. Be kind to all, get your education, keep your eye on the prize and secure your future. Racists assume that you are nothing, come from nothing and know nothing. Surprise them by being “someone”, coming from “something” and knowing that you are capable of greatness. They will have to find another way to try to break you and your spirit. You won’t let them because you’ll know better. Remember that…
  4. Think carefully about your actions and how you approach certain situations. What is perceived as “a pass” for someone else will likely be seen as a “crime” if you’re in the same situation – remember that! ; and
  5. When you see your friends doing wrong, walk away. Because if the authorities are called, you will be the first one they haul away – no questions asked. Remember that…

Those are just a handful of life lessons I learned being in the skin I’m in.

©July 8, 2016 Marquessa Matthews. All Rights Reserved.













58 thoughts on ““Lessons Your Parents May Not Have Taught You” #racism #black #writerwednesday #unconsciousbias #blackhistorymonth

  1. Hello 🙂 We used to follow each other! But I deleted my old blog site (dreamkatcherblog.wordpress.com) and migrated my posts to a new domain (I just bought it the other day hihi). It’s now loveafterlove.net 🙂 I’m visiting all of the authors I have followed before and give everyone a notice. I hope to maintain the connection. Have a nice day!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I honestly am so ashamed of the human race for treating you (and any other black woman/man) like this. There needs to be such a big change in peoples attitudes. When I read things like this I just don’t know what I can do to inspire such a change, please know that not all humans are this cruel, and we will find a way for equality.

    Liked by 5 people

  3. Amen. These same conversations took place at dinner tables in the homes of black families all over the country. They definitely did at my house. People are always shocked when they find that out, and I’m shocked that it never crossed their minds. I guess communication is key.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Wow. This is the most honest and powerful explanation I have read about the differences skin color still cause in this world. I am lucky. We didn’t have these discussions in my house. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. It is important, and we all only experience the life in the color skin we have. While I have had lots of sympathy in the past week your post was the one that helped me sit at a different dinner table and have a glimpse at empathy. Thank you.

        Liked by 2 people

  5. Perspective is everything, and I’m so glad you’ve chosen to write about these conversations, which are commonplace in the black community. With that said, things were passed down to me, but I’ve never really had these conversations with my daughters. I think it’s because I want them to know that they really can do whatever they want. At the same time, I want them to be aware of institutionalized racism, so we talk about broader concepts and how it applies to their everyday life. Thanks again for writing this Marquessa. I know it’s new information for many.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for that. We were also taught that we could acheive high levels but to keep in mind that “reality” could be the obstacle or make it a longer & tougher journey, especially in the 60s and 70s where people like us here were not “popular”.

      Liked by 3 people

  6. We teach our daughters that the first thing you say to an officer is, “I do not recall,” followed by, “Am I free to go?” and “I would like an attorney.” We also must teach them that they are girls who will someday be women. As such they will be underestimated and must prove others wrong. For my daughter who is figuring out who she might love, we must teach her to take care with who knows she has a crush on a girl in her class.

    The lessons we have to teach our children are great. I want to teach them about their heritage and the lessons I learned from my fore-mothers. Lessons of strength, determination and success. I wonder, though, if I’ll have the time.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I grew up in a mostly white community within my churches and heavily Mexican community within my schools. (My mom is white and my dad is black). I have never experienced this real threat of racism in my short lifetime and it saddens me to think that simply because of the preconceived notions that have been engraved in people from generations way back, we still treat people differently simply because of their skin color. The most blatant act of racism
    against me that I can remember happened in my 3rd grade year of elementary school. My “friend” told me that another girl didn’t like me because I was black and not Mexican. This really injured my view of myself back then and I know it is a really mild case compared to what many black children experience in many parts of the U.S.

    Great writing!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Heartbreaking. I will never understand racism. It makes me incredibly angry. I am a 7th generation southerner and the stupidity I’ve witnessed has been huge. And because we’ve got a bigot for President (my opinion), hate crimes are on the rise

    Please, Marquessa, read Small Great Things.

    And I am in awe of your writing. Thanks for sharing your world with me

    Liked by 1 person

      1. The only way I could come within miles of your experience is, as a child, I lived in a 99% Hispanic community. I was the only non-hispanic in the entire school. I was ostracized and quite lonely. Until one day, this lovely girl from Jamaica moved to the neighborhood. But I never forgot the feelings of being ridiculed and left out. All the teachers were Hispanic as well and often would speak Spanish while teaching, so I slid even further behind in my studies. But I had Rhonda and life was easier.

        You have a beautiful way of writing and I’m very much looking forward to reading more.


  9. On point, Marquessa. I witnessed an argument in a Wawa one day last year. The black woman and white woman was arguing with each other loudly. But guess who got cuffed and hauled away?

    Like you pointed out, it is truly pitiful but a fact of life that in the skin we are in we have to be 20x careful and even then we could still be targeted…

    Great post!

    Liked by 2 people

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