Two weeks ago, I had a very uncomfortable conversation with my younger daughter. We were talking about the George Floyd protests and she hit me with this, “What’s a white supremacist?”
At that moment I realized that I haven’t been doing a good job teaching my kids about race. It’s one thing to raise them not to be racist, but educating them about the complex history around race and how you can be an instrument for change is another. As a white woman, I’ve had the luxury of avoiding the issue. I thought that the schools would educate my kids about civil rights, society would regulate inequality and essentially, the racial divide wasn’t MY problem. But now I realize that by avoiding it, I’ve been complicit.
I’m certainly no expert on how to educate yourself or your kids on this subject. But I’m hoping that by providing a group of songs from which to launch a meaningful discussion may help your family (and mine) talk about things that are long overdue. And of course, we both know that the best place to have these conversations is in the car.
1971 Marvin Gaye, Inner City Blues
Rockets, moon shots
Spend it on the have nots
Money, we make it
‘Fore we see it you take it
I thought it was interesting that the George Floyd protests were happening at the same time that the Space X rocket launch occurred. I couldn’t stop thinking about Marvin Gaye’s song and how the lyrics were essentially talking about the government was sending people to the moon while people of color were suffering. Obviously, Space X is a private company but it does beg the question, If we can go so far with technology, why can’t we better to each other?
’cause I’m brown
And not the other color so police think
They have the authority to kill a minority
I know that listening to F-bombs in the family car may be against your parenting guidelines, but if your kids are over the age of 12, they’ve heard it before. This song may be ‘inappropriate’ in many circles, but it’s also an honest window into what it must feel like to be betrayed by those who were supposed to protect you. Speaking of which..
You better wake up and smell the real flavor,
Cause 911 is a fake life saver.
Where I live, 911 doesn’t come because they’re stuck in traffic, not because they don’t see my life as valuable. I can’t imagine how infuriating that would be, especially as a parent.
Some of those that work forces
Are the same that burn crosses
This song was released six months after the LA Riots, after Rodney King was beaten by four white police offers (and then acquitted). Sound familiar?
2015 Janelle Monae f. Wondaland Records, Hell You Talmbout
Silence is the enemy
Sound is the weapon
This explosive song is upsetting. Period. Ms. Monae and members of her Wondaland collective list the names of African-American people who have died after encounters with law enforcement and racial violence. As they list the names (Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Sean Bell, Freddie Gray, etc) if you react the way I did, you’ll think, “oh God, I forgot about that one.” EXACTLY.
I take a line from my man Lin-Man who wrote Ham
Revolution is messy, but now it’s time to stand.
This track features incredible spoken word by Daniel J Watts. When I played it for my family the other day, it was incredibly moving. It felt like it was written the night before.
So how did we get here? With people rioting in the streets in the middle of a pandemic? Well, look at the playlist. It shows that for my entire lifetime (I was born in 1971, the same year as Inner City Blues) I’ve been hearing the call for change and singing along, but I did nothing.
Listening is just the first step. Actions are were it’s at.