A few days ago I was speaking to my mother about Halloween. I remember as a child dressing up in homemade costumes, trick-or-treating with neighbors and sorting through piles of candy as soon as we returned home. I remember Halloween as fun and exciting, but my mom remembers being worried and anxious that someone would treat us poorly or differently than our white friends because we were Black children trick-or-treating in predominately white neighborhoods. My mother also shared with me, that her mother was not a fan of Halloween, although she often went along with it, because she didn’t like the perception of “begging” and didn’t want her Black children to be judged or stereotyped. Although I wasn’t exactly surprised by these details described by my mother, it shook me a little. Yet, I understood it. I can see why my grandmother wanted to protect the image of her Black children, even while trick-or-treating in the 1960’s and why my mother was concerned and protective of her Black children trick-or-treating in the 1990’s.
I am now a mother, my children are still quite young and trick-or-treating door-to-door isn’t a tradition we’ve started yet. However, I can’t help but think about my future experiences with this Day; particularly moving forward in this country when things are so heavily divided and tense, both from a racial standpoint and politically. As I drive through my neighborhood each day, I can’t help but notice all of the political signs, both for candidates and also with statements such as “Black Lives Matter”, “We Support Our Police”, and “Hate Has No Home Here’, just to point out a few. If this was a “normal” year, meaning we weren’t in a global pandemic, I can’t help but think, would I let my children go door to door at the houses who are openly supporting candidates that I don’t support on a moral level, or who have signs that are supporting institutions I believe need to be dismantled and rebuilt, due to centuries of brutality and injustice to countless Black and brown people in this country? How do I put my guard down just enough, and try to focus on the moment, so my children can have that same Halloween joy I did (without knowing the impact on my mother) but also being purposeful and persistent in my decisions on how I navigate certain spaces as a Black woman and mother in 2020?
The reality is twofold, as a human being living in this country I should have the right to experience and explore any space that I desire for myself and for my family; however, as a Black woman in this country, every experience I have or choose to have is veiled with racism. So, when I am trying to decide as a Black woman, with a white husband, in the suburbs, with two young boys, if taking a stroll around the neighborhood, going door-to-door asking for candy is an experience I want to partake in, my immediate response is yes, we are fully “allowed” to do whatever it is we choose. But if I sit back and allow my mind to drift deeper, I’m pulled back into that other reality, the one of being Black in this country. Unfortunately, and perhaps there is some fortune there, the pandemic has forced us all to alter how we do things and reevaluate every facet of our lives. As we approach the holiday season, beginning with Halloween, it’s clear that this time of year is a welcomed respite from the merciless year 2020 has been for this nation as a whole, but as we approach this season, which in past years would encourage us to celebrate and gather together in our homes and in our communities; perhaps we can begin to find new ways of bringing joy and satisfaction to our children, through new experiences that hopefully aim to minimize stress and worry.
This year, as a family, we will aim to spend time at home, cooking, watching movies, and likely taking a stroll to see decorations. Next year, when we are hopefully on the other side of the global pandemic, and our children are a year older, we will evaluate how to incorporate both societal traditions with our own new traditions. Just like my mother and grandmother, I want my Black children to have the same joyful experiences, even if that means as a Black mother, I shoulder that anxiety and worry. I will always work to find ways to mitigate any undo stress on myself and on my family, and I’m taking this time, when things are exceptionally messy, to do that.
– Tenia Skinner MS, ACSM cPT // @tenia_bird2.0