They snapped these selfies as souvenirs on their first solo journey through the streets of small-town Kentucky to an ice creme shop & back, moments before an experience that taught us all a bit more about voice, values & violence.
I was elated at their older cousin’s idea; “Can I take the boys on a walk?”
Family, chosen & biological is a special thing.
“A WATER BOTTLE WAS THROWN AT US!!!” They exclaimed as they ran through the door.
“Look! Here’s the proof!” (holding said proof somewhat proudly, somewhat wondering, somewhat exasperated, somewhat nervous either that they’d done something wrong or that they shouldn’t be sharing)
“What happened?” Curious caregivers continued.
“We booed a car, then we started walking, and suddenly we heard a loud clank and turned around and saw they’d thrown this (metal) water bottle at us!”
“Why did you boo a car?”
“B/c They are the people who don’t want abortions!”
“Oh…how did you know?”
“They had a “Pro-Life” bumper sticker on their car!”
Ah….okay, I said as things began to make sense.
What would you say?
How would you react?
We’re days from this event, but I’m still wondering if we handled it as well as we could have.
Here’s a bit of what came out in the moment, along with some threads and themes we’ve revisited since.
- We affirmed their voice and that they wanted to share it.
- We applauded their agency and ability to make value statements.
- We posed some basic questions to think about before choosing to openly share your opinion:
Is this a safe time and place?
(We talked about how safe, of course, is a loaded word that means different things for different people, with non-white people always most at risk).
Are there any caregivers or trusted adults close by in the event I share my opinion and something bad happens?
Are there any statistical assumptions we can make about the type of person we are encountering/value we are challenging that can guide or caution our decision about whether to speak up?
(We talked about how statistically, “pro-lifers” are also “pro-gun” which correlates to violence and harassment.)
Is there anything about my visible identity that may ignite bias, prejudice, racism or violence?
(We talked about how Amie is a young bi-racial Black girl who, although she benefits from colorism, racism, specifically misogynoir is a real thing, especially in small-town Kentucky. We also noted that Zane and Levi are often seen as gender fluid & openly expressive, choices that also threaten Cis-Heteropatriarchy.)
What am I hoping to accomplish by speaking up right now?
We are grateful no one was hurt and absolutely crushed though not surprised at this specific grown adult’s choice to resort to violence.
I wonder what kind of conversations he had growing up?
What were the questions asked of him?
What was taught to him about what it means to “be a man” and to “defend yourself?”
What could he learn instead of violently reacting from young children opposing his views?
How can he justify being “pro-life” and throwing a weapon?
And for all of us,
Do we have enough imagination to believe another way is possible … even for him?
And will our children suffer or flourish as a result of our answer to that question?
The “young” lessons on voice, values, and violence aren’t so young.
They are new to us each day…if we let them be.