When Hate Hit Home: Racism on the School Bus
by Julia Jordan Kamanda
A kid on the bus told my 5-year old daughter that Trump would kill her if he won because Trump doesn't like black people. She came home crying that day.
And so it began.
November 2016: It was so hard to tell my beautiful, gentle, brown-skinned children that Donald Trump was going to be president. My daughter's first reaction to the news, the day after her experience on the bus, was to hold up her arm and study her skin. The gorgeous autumn brown that, honestly, I wish I shared with her. My son stopped in his tracks, put down his Xbox controller and came over for a hug.
They talk about evil in a "knowing" sort of way. "Trump only cares about money, not you or me,” I have heard them say to each other. At 4 and 5 years old, they were certain that the good guy would win the election because doesn't the good guy always win? To them, this man seemed like some orange, villainous bad guy in a superhero movie.
But this boy on the bus. This 7-year-old boy. He came to my KINDERGARTENER with this language! At 7 years old you don't have opinions of hate and race unless your parents do. You don't tell someone they are going to be killed because of the color of their skin unless you've heard that somewhere.
So there we were. A multiracial, multigenerational, bi-continental family. Living in a large house in a small Pennsylvanian city. And I thought to myself, well, here I am in rural America. I've heard of this place. We see confederate flags flying on trucks at the mall. We watch men bring guns into the grocery store just because they can.
I look at my beautiful mixed family and I worry in ways I've never worried before. I feel vulnerable for the first time in my life. And I feel protective of my kids, my family, our way of living and loving. My children have experienced racism already. Now my trusting, happy-go-lucky little girl has learned to be guarded.
My children are brown because they are mixed with the colors of the world. West African, Central African, Scandinavian, Scotch Irish, English. They are from Chiefs on their father’s side, and they carry royal blood. They are descendants of slaves on their mother’s side, and they carry the American burden. They are wind and color. They are love and laughter. They are stories and songs. And they are stronger than this. We are ALL stronger than this.
We have to be the protectors of love in the face of hate. And we have to teach our children what that means so they can carry the same message to the school bus, and beyond.
This piece is part of an ongoing series where we invite 2019-2020 Season artists to reflect on our season theme “When Hate Hits Home.”
Julia Jordan Kamanda and Jeniffer Ridgway will bring their theater for the very young performance of Julia’s book Haja, the Bird who was Afraid to Fly to Joe’s stage May 2020. Click for tickets.