The Lesson Jessica Bennett Just Learned About Raising a Black Son

BY: - 20 Feb '13 | On the Web

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There are few things in the world that could enrage me enough to want to openly slap another adult, but any violence toward my children will definitely get you “dealt” with. I can remember growing up, my mother always told us to make sure no adult EVER “put their hands on us” — that was her job. She made sure we behaved and with that promise, she’d do whatever it took to protect us. So when I had my own kids, as soon as I held each one of my babies, I immediately knew I’d do EVERYTHING in my power to protect my them. Sometimes it has meant I have to go to the school to address a bully or be the “watchdog” parent on the neighborhood playground to protect my babies against potential bullies. So imagine my disdain when I read online that a grown man racist pig slapped a toddler on a Delta plane as the plane descended upon Atlanta AND called the precious child a NIGGER.

Yes, you read it right, Joe Rickey Hundley ( AGC Aerospace and Defense, Composites Group a former executive) slapped a baby…in a public place…. while the child’s mother was seated next to him. To add insult to injury, Mr. Hundley used a derogatory term to refer to the baby. I just knew at that moment that when the passengers realized what happened, the entire plane proceeded to “beat his ass.”

Nope. But according to Yahoo News, several passengers including one passenger in particular, Todd Wooten, made it a point to stop this fool and intervened to stop this racist attack. As I continued to read the article, all I could think was HELL NO! Luckily Hundley wasn’t given a ‘slap on the wrist’  but was charged with a federal crime AND lost his job.

Maybe justice will be served for Baby Bennett.

After days of reading various articles across the internet, I finally got to meet Mrs. Bennett and that precious son of hers. To my surprise I found out that Mrs. Bennett is Caucasian and her son is adopted. While this detail did not change the facts, it gave this horrendous story another interesting twist. Now despite being of another color, Jessica now knows the weight of raising a child of color.

This weight is not physical but rather mental — especially for parents of African American boys. Every day we parents face the realization that many times our sons are viewed as criminals without ever committing a crime. Our children are killed, harassed, and made out to being criminals, many times without any evidence. We wonder if they’re going to end up like Trayvon Martin or Jordan Davis, two teens killed by men using Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law. We wonder if they’ll be stopped by police and frisked for no crime other than being young and black, such as in New York City. Even worse, they’ll be likened to the buffoons such as Lil Wayne who fill our popular music with songs about “big booties” and “mollies.” Faced with these grim realizations of race and our society, we parents HAVE to teach our sons (and daughters) lessons about race and stereotypes early on. However, sometimes (like in Mrs. Bennett’s case) these lessons are “up close and personal.”

As an African American parent, I’ve been where Jessica Bennett (and countless other parents of color) have been. Just last year in a Titusville, Florida Wal-Mart, some teenage girls thought it was cute to flippantly say I had a “cute nigger baby.” Of course they didn’t think I’d hear them so they ran. But of course I confronted them and they wouldn’t even acknowledge the HATE that spewed from their mouths. I wanted to choke them. I wanted to slap the “taste” out of their mouths. But instead, I needed to make them feel as little as they thought they were going to make my son feel. So I ever so eloquently let them know that no, my children weren’t niggers but they (the teens) were something worse than an ignorant person. They were uncouth. By the time I got finished with them, they RAN out of that store but that moment will stay with me FOREVER. And so does Jessica Bennett who now (even though she’s not a person of color) has this lesson about race embedded in her brain forever.

It doesn’t matter if  Mr. Hundley pleads guilty or if the airline decides to compensate her with money, Mrs. Bennett is forever scarred. Just like Sybrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon Martin, and Lucia McBath, mother of Jordan Davis know — this is a rough world to raise a child of color.

Now my BMWK family — What would you have done if you were on the plane with Mrs. Bennett?

About the author

Franchesca Warren wrote 44 articles on this blog.

Franchesca Warren is writer, author, blogger, educator, runner, entrepreneur, mother and overall BossyGirl. She's currently working on her second book detailing her chronicles of working in two of the roughest urban school districts with a release date of August 2012. You can find her full-time on her blog chronicling her life trying to balance it all and run a marathon by the end of the year. In her spare time she runs her own editing company, The Editing Nerd, and working on the launch of her first magazine. For a daily account of the good, bad and ugly of being a BossyGirl follow her on Twitter!

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