A true story by a Loveland resident presented by Loveland Magazine in collaboration with the Loveland Diversity Advisory Board. Contact them if you’ve a story to share.
The family in this story has chosen to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation against their children.
Part I of 2
We arrived at school bright and early, just as my sons had requested. It was their last day of 2nd and 4th grade and the anticipation they felt for the occasion was palpable. The dew collected on the toes of their sneakers as they ran to line up, the unmistakable scent of spring perfuming the air. It would be the kind of summer children dream about, with lazy mornings, afternoon trips to the park, and visits to the local Whippy Dip where the cones melted and dripped down their small arms onto the picnic tables. We never got enough napkins. It was going to be the kind of summer they’d look back on years from now with a hint of nostalgia, remembering the carefree innocence of childhood.
The school day went by without a hitch; games were played, awards were dispersed, maybe there was a hint of sorrow from the teachers as they retreated back to their now-empty classrooms. But on the faces of my sons and their friends after the final bell had rung, I saw nothing but pure elation. As they played on the front lawn of the school, one last farewell before loading them up, a car slowed to a cruise on Loveland-Madeira. It was all decked out, congratulatory chalk paint on the windows; apparently the driver and his passengers were recently graduated seniors.
The passenger leaned out of his open window as the car passed my sons and me.
“Have a good summer,” he shouted. My sons smiled back, visibly excited a ‘cool’ older kid was acknowledging them.
But his sentence didn’t end there.
I wish his sentence had ended there.
“Have a good summer, you N——s!”
My heart dropped. I felt as though I’d been punched in the stomach. And then instinct kicked in.
“Get in the car, boys,” I frantically stammered.
“But mom–what did he say?”
“I said GET IN THE CAR. NOW.”
“What did he call us mom? Why did he say that?”
I met the puzzled gaze of my younger son who had no idea what had just transpired.
My older son looked equally befuddled. This wasn’t the first time he’d encountered that vile term. He knew what it meant. The confusion on his face told me he just hadn’t heard the slur over all the commotion.
And here I was, flushed, sweating, and doing everything I could to keep from melting into a puddle of tears in front of them.
There weren’t enough napkins to clean up the mess.
With a single word, our perfect day was shattered.
I tried to see the car’s plate number, but they’d sped away too quickly. I called the school to report the transgression, but, being the last day of school, I never heard back. I met with a police officer, but unfortunately his hands were tied; with what little information we had there was no feasible way to determine the identity of the culprits. As a last ditch effort, I tried doing my own reconnaissance work on a local moms’ group page on social media where my post was promptly removed after group members began chastising me. This isn’t the place for this, I was scolded. Well, where was the place? In the midst of a travesty, I’d turned to my community and in turn I was brushed off and chided.
That night, instead of eating ice cream that dribbled down their chins and staying up past bedtime, my sons, my husband, and I had to have “the talk.” This is the talk that all parents of Black children, boys in particular, dread. We’d had conversations before but this time they’d been called out. This time it was personal.
We had to explain what they were called. What it meant. Where it originated. We had to explain that not everyone saw them as an equal. That prejudice exists.That stereotypes, to some people, are the stuff of truth. We had to sit down, the first night of summer, at the end of what began as a day full of promise, to explain racism to our elementary school-aged children. We had to explain that there are people who hate them for no reason other than the color of their skin. We had to explain that sometimes, inexplicably, people will respond differently to things they do, even if those things are exactly the same as those their Caucasian friends are doing. We had to explain injustice, an intrinsically unfriendly concept, in the most child-friendly way possible.
We were determined not to let racism win. This would not ruin our summer; it would not ruin our family. And ultimately, we have triumphed. This event and others like them, as upsetting, maddening and sorrowful as they are, have only served as teachable moments and life lessons. We turn the negativity into chances to fortify our familial bond and bolster our pride.
But make no mistake, there have been tears. There have been lots of tears.
And there are never enough tissues.
With this horrifying experience behind them, this family hoped the worst was over.
In Part II of this Diversity Story, we see that the trouble was only beginning.
Stay tuned for Part 2
Read our first installment of a true story by a Loveland resident presented by Loveland Magazine in collaboration with the Loveland Diversity Advisory Board
For more information on talking to your kids about race and racism:
For engaging story times on diversity (including race) for young learners, join the Loveland Diversity Advisory Board and the Cincinnati Hamilton County Library the 2nd Monday of every month for Bedtime Book Talks.
Support for those feeling fearful, vulnerable, or uncomfortable upon reading these accounts: