my son will be absent because in our house we teach him to respect others, but also stand up for himself and those in need. we do not want those teachings undone by scare tactics meant to silence him and suppress his natural altruism.
my son will be absent because I don’t want him manhandled by a raging resource officer or any school official who’s sole purpose is to ensure my son receive his education in a safe and nurturing environment.
my son will be absent because I don’t want him to know the terror of running and/or hiding from an active shooter. I don’t want his sacred space violated in such a way that his innocent curiosity and enthusiastic awareness turns to constant apprehension and fear. I don’t want to plant seeds of hopelessness when I explain to him these acts could have been avoided by mere policy change.
my son will be absent because I prefer to celebrate his uniqueness. I never want the idea that different is wrong enforced by a neglectful and disregarding authority figure. his vulnerability should be fostered and regarded as strength; not a target for those hurting so badly their only solace is to bully him for expressing his whole self. because I want him to feel free for as long as possible.
my son will be absent because instead of playing, exploring, and fostering a sense of wonder, he will be labeled “bad” or “troubled” if he’s unable to sit still and silent for hours upon hours.
my son will be absent because the history books you teach from do not reflect what we teach him about the many shoulders of giants he stands on. the statistics and facts you expect him to learn do not reflect his identity.
my son will be absent because I don’t want him to feel “stupid” or “slow” if he needs extra help or attention in a specific area. and because of pressure to meet some quota or remain in line with antiquated curriculum timelines, he will be shamed and/or ignored, creating a lifelong aversion to learning.
my son will be absent because the far too frequent tests are designed without regard for varying demographics that make up today’s classroom. the style, material and structure are not created with him in mind.
my son will be absent because as much as i’d like to think you’d contact me if anything were to go wrong or need my attention, I’m afraid you’ll assume I wouldn’t be interested in knowing. that because of preconceived notions about people who look like us, I wouldn’t want to know every detail of the happenings surrounding my child. because I don’t believe the well-being of my son would outweigh your desire to avoid the presumed wrath of an “angry black woman.”
my son will be absent; because of his brown skin, you are unable to see him as the child he is and insist on seeing him as an adult, a potential predator, an immediate threat. I do not trust you to recognize, care for, and protect his humanity.
my son will be absent because his father and I are involved in his education and will fully engage in his school experience. we will be allies and also hold teachers and administrators accountable. and we don’t want him punished for that if it ruffles certain feathers of comfort.
my son will be absent because your institution isn’t built to serve the best parts of him. but then, no institution is.
with sadness and sincerity,
a mother of a son whose life matters
The Author writes, “I’m Tiffany Rose Smith, the “rose” behind rosewithwords.com. I was born in the backwoods of Florida and grew up in the kinds of towns they make slow, indie, high school football movies about. After spending my college years creating fashion shows with friends, I bounced around the country a bit before landing in New York, where I affectionately say I earned my stripes. I worked everywhere from Vera Wang to Cole Haan, and spent years hopping around Conde Nast as an assistant and coordinator at various magazines. My last big stint was at Details magazine as the exec assistant to the Editor-in-Chief.”
“When I wasn’t working for rent, I submersed myself in the endlessly talent-ridden music and arts scene by acting, writing, and developing a keen ear as a creative director for a few fun music projects. When I’d had enough of New York winters and over-crowded every things, I packed up, said goodbye to some of the best people I know, and moved to Los Angeles.
After successfully making the transition from Florida to New York, I naively thought the move west would be a breeze. I quickly discovered living anywhere after “the greatest city in the world” can be hard. That is until you meet your person. Since moving to LA, I met, fell in love, and earlier this year, married my spirit partner in a magical/teeny/semi-illegal cliff ceremony with just our parents as guests.”
“We spent a couple months city/country hopping before returning to Los Angeles where we’re now anxiously awaiting the arrival of our first baby this fall! I think he’ll (it’s a boy!) look like his dad and I’m most excited for the moment after he leaves my body because I will have known I didn’t die and gets placed, all gooey and gross, on my chest and I say: “hello, my son. Welcome to this incredible world. I promise to do my best.””
“For a person who hates the question “what do you do?”, i’m basically a creative who dabbles in many areas. i write things. i’ve acted in things. sometimes i advise people on their things. when i’m not blogging or working on other writing projects, i’m plugging away at a long awaited relaunch of the company i created a few years ago, brownbaby. i think Pinterest is my spirit app. i’m a Pisces with an Oprah rising. i love nature. i’m a dialogue pusher. i’m the queen of run-on sentences. i think children are our future. i’ve seen every episode of Roseanne, Will + Grace, Friends, and The Cosby Show.
“i’m typically a painfully private person, which makes something like blogging pure craziness, but i like it. i like words. and my ability to have a voice and use my words has been my saving grace.”
This piece was reprinted by EmpathyEducates with permission or license. We thank the Author, Tiffany Rose Smith for her kindness, awareness, sensitivity, and for inviting us to look at what is real for our Black and Brown children in school. We are also grateful for all the lessons we learn at our mothers’ and fathers’ knee.