Sunday, April 05, 2009

Life in the Inner-City cont...Isaac's Perspective

Isaac was probably about 5 in this picture--I LOVE his pose!

haha, who knew getting your hair cut was such a terrifying thing?

When I asked Isaac(17) what he thought were some advantages to living in the city he immediately responded: "Diverse interaction". He talked for about five minutes straight about how much he valued being surrounded by differences and how much he has learned from that. I then asked him what he thought life would be like if he wasn't surrounded by so much diversity. He said:

"It would change me. I would think I had to act like the black people I saw on t.v."

He mentioned that he probably wouldn't think as hard about things like civil rights. Probably his most passionate point though, was that if he didn't live in the city he would not be exposed to "real" hip-hop. He said "In the city your ears are opened" and that he would hate to think that hip-hop was limited to the commercial stuff you hear on the radio.

I then asked if he ever got comments from his non-white friends about having white parents. His answer was an emphatic YES. He said he hears things like
You must be rich!
I bet you get whatever you want! (which is a really funny assumption if you know our family since that is definitely not the case)
Ohh so that's why you act white sometimes...
Why do you talk like that?

He went on to say "It bothered me when I was little, but not anymore." He then said that while he CAN act "straight up ghetto" he chooses not to.

I asked him to tell me about the demographics of his friends. He said about about 25% of his friends were white, the rest were from a variety of backgrounds. He emphasized that he can get along with everyone, saying "I'm hilarious" but also commented that he thinks some white people are intimidated by him.

At one point during the conversation Isaac said that once in awhile he forgets the extra responsibilities that are an inevitable part of being black in this city. He told me about how the other day he wasn't thinking and wore a red scarf when he went out one night with his friends. Red is the color of one of the major gangs around here (not just around here, they are all over the country) and most young black men avoid wearing red or the rival gang's royal blue if they don't want people to think they are affiliated with either side. That night Isaac ran into a group of guys who started throwing up signs and making all sorts of comments about the gang they assumed he was representing. On one hand Isaac was surprised, because he was definitely not dressed like your typical gang member. On the other had he said that people really don't care what your style is--they see your skin color first and make assumptions from there. He said simply "I have to think about the colors I wear". His non-black friends do not.

When I asked Isaac if he had any advice for white parents adopting African American children he said that if their kids don't know how to "act black" they won't be prepared. He also said it's important to be genuine. He used the example of going to a diverse church just because your kids are black, and said it should be about more than that. Your heart should really be in it and you should genuinely want to be a part of the community there. His last point was that parents should not just focus on exposing their children to black and white, but rather they should make a point to celebrate ALL cultures.

"If not, there's no way they are going to make it"

Part 1: Growing Up in the Inner-City

Part 2: The Move


Andrea H. said...

Kelsey I absolutely love that you are touching on this subject. Thank you. Too many times people adopt and don't get the fact that their children are now completly the token child in a all white neighborhood. Dang it if that's the case, move so your child can be exposed. Isaac has some excellent points and I totally agree with him on everything. When my Danica (who is about your age and mixed) was in 9th grade I was going to put her in a private school till graduation to protect her because her school's name was going down especially with gang related issues. But she strongly faught me on it and made me have her stay at her school and she graduated with flying colors and stayed clean. She loves both sides of her heritage but Issac was so right when he mentioned the culture also.

Andrea said...

As usual I love your insight! Thank you for sharing. ;o)

Lisa said...

I LOVE you! :-)

Milena said...

What insightful thoughts, both from you and Issac. You are both truly amazing, as are your parents. It's people like you with your open hearts and open minds who do the most to change the world.

It's genuinely uplifting to read your blog, and I am awed by what you undertake and succeed in.

Love to you all from an Eritrean/Ethiopian in Germany.

C said...

I love this blog! I hope you know that you are really doing a service by educating on these issues! Thank you so much.

sarah bess said...

Kelsey, you're a phenomenal writer and your brother is very perceptive, too. I'll be a follower of your blog for sure!

Rachel said...

What a smart kid! And what a great sister/social worker to ask such probing questions. There are too many times that people don't take the time to ask, and if they do, they don't take the time to listen or try to understand the responses. You do both, and you're amazing!

I cannot believe how much wisdom Isaac has for being only 17!