Raising A Racially Sensitive Child: The Franklin Family
“There are things in the system that we can’t do anything about, and those are the things I have to talk to my children about,” says Stephen Franklin, with wife Dr. Tanya Franklin and their children.
YOU HAVE TO BE TWICE AS GOOD
Empowerment is the tenet touted throughout the home of Dr. Tanya Franklin and Stephen Franklin. The Franklins say they teach their children that prejudice is on the perpetrator. The baggage that people carry doesn’t impact how you should carry yourself. We teach our children — who come from a mother who is a doctor, a father that is a professional, and grew up with the Obamas — that the ignorance of prejudice shouldn’t define how you see yourself. It is a problem that other people have, so shame on them.”
But as a black family in a primarily white east-end neighborhood, discussing race is not an option. “Diversity is forced on us whether we want it or not. White people have the choice in this city to live in a bubble. Most black people, however, have experienced prejudice,” Stephen said. “I hate to say it, but it is just the fact. Prejudice doesn’t affect us. Racism, though, is systemic, and it is dangerous. There are things in the system that we can’t do anything about, and those are the things I have to talk to my children about.”
The Franklins were cautious to talk about race at the dinner table. They didn’t want to have the conversation too early and burden them. “They were just kids,” the Franklins explain. “We didn’t want to be too heavy too soon.”
However, Stephen was forced to address the issue when Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old, was shot and killed by a Cleveland police officer while throwing snowballs and playing with a toy gun in a local park. “I have been used to seeing black men get killed by cops, but I’d never seen it with a kid. It was sick! America has an obsession with guns, and this kid was playing with a toy gun with his friend and now he’s dead. Sure, we all know the story of Emmit Till, but this was current and on the news, and I had to see it. It scared the hell out of me. My son was also 12 at the time. He’s an athlete so he is always in a hoodie or a jersey coming from practice, and all the sudden I have to tell him to take his hood down or change because we’re going into the grocery. It is so hard to talk about because you don’t want to kill his spirit.”
The Franklins explained that, around that same time as a middle schooler, their son was called the n-word at his private school. The family immediately decided to pull him from the school, but the headmaster begged them to stay because “We need more people like him here.” This was another example of the pressure that society puts on their children, the Franklins explained.
“When you’re African American, you have to be twice as good. Our kids have trouble with that — we have trouble with that — it doesn’t seem fair. We put a lot of pressure on them to be the representative of our family and an entire race. People around them may only have one experience with a black person, and that is a heavy weight. My 12-year-old has to be there for the benefit of everyone else? No, we felt like he just needed to be a kid.”
What gives the Franklins hope? The call for social justice from the youth in this city and the diversity present in the current protests. “When our white brothers and sisters stand side-by-side against systemic racism, that gives us hope.”