We Could Learn a Lot From Kaden Brown and His Parents

Kaden Brown on his first day of school 2016.

Kaden Brown on his first day of school 2016.

We could learn a lot from Kaden Brown and his parents.

If you follow mainstream media and / or you are on social media, you may recognize the names Kevin Brown, Liane Banks and their son Kaden Brown. You also know the term that a teacher used on their son and the resulting viral hashtag.

I remember very vividly the first time someone called me a half-breed and a mutt. I was eleven years old. Although I had been raised to self-identify as Black (light complected as I am), my parents had warned me about all derogatory terms for Blacks and multiracial people.

The White kid who uttered these nasty words was obviously repeating what his parents had taught him. In the moment I wasn’t fully convinced he knew what he was saying. He was only eleven years old as well.

It happened in the school yard. Many kids heard it and some stuck up for me. Many left me high and dry and one ran to get the teacher. One can argue this is a sad commentary on societal reactions to “isms” today. Fortunately my teacher was Black (looking back on his very light complexion and Afro, I actually now suspect he too was Biracial). I didn’t then and I don’t now have much faith that had my teacher been White there would have been such a swift and decisive response by the school.

My teacher asked the kid what happened. He didn’t lie, which was good in one respect, obviously horrible in another. He owned the words and he was unapologetic about having used them on someone. Good because the teacher didn’t have do much legwork to get to the bottom of the situation.

Mr. Racist-in-the-making was expelled from school. His parents obviously made a huge stink out of it and I don’t know what happened with that.

My parents’ reactions were very different. My Black and Japanese mother had been called those, nigger, Jap and more her entire life. She was rather jaded by the time she was in her mid-40s.

My father was furious. I have carried this anger with me for a few decades. It comes out in my writing all the time.

Today this wouldn’t happen. By “this” I mean it wouldn’t have been dealt with quietly. Kid expelled, kids and parents go their separate ways … end of story.

We are far more aware of sleights that occur to ordinary people like you and me, thanks to a smartphone with social media apps. Just point, shoot, record and upload and racism can no longer hide in plain site. Exposure and virality are the name of the game today.

My father would have loved being around to see this. I am sorry he’s not.

Stories abound of kids, adults, teachers and cops saying and doing things to act out their racism. Those who’ve been the victim of racism in any form eagerly share the stories, the videos and the photos. We pontificate, we debate and we attempt to educate. We hope things will change and with each new incident the anger intensifies.

It’s different when they happen to a child. My heart breaks each time a child experiences racism for the first time. Despite being angry about racism since that day in the schoolyard and despite how much I write about it, I keep having this misguided faith that things will get better and we can all truly live out Dr. King’s dream.

Another incident happened last week and I reached out to Liane and Kevin about their son. I wanted to get their take on it. I wanted justice for their son, Kaden. I got to know Liane and in our many, many discussions over the last few days I saw something nobody is focussing on.

Kaden and his mom Liane Banks.

Kaden and his mom Liane Banks.

Although not married, they are doing an excellent job of co-parenting their son.

Kevin Brown and his son Kaden.

Kevin Brown and his son Kaden.

Fewer times has their cooperative relationship been more tested than lately.

While other media outlets wish to rehash what was done to their son, Alex and I would like to present an alternate perspective.

Rather than focus on the negative, and make no mistake it was ugly and it made us both extremely angry (Alex is White and Jewish and is married to a Black woman and together they are raising a five-year-old Biracial son), let’s remind ourselves of the beauty, strength and courage that surround us each and every day.

We could learn a lot from Kaden Brown and his parents.

Difficult as it is sometimes, because we want to scream when we see children being treated cruelly, let’s look at these photos and remind ourselves of what’s important in life. Communication, happiness, love, maturity, not reacting but thinking things through and teaching our younger generation there are other ways to handle things. Remind them that while there is ugliness in the world, we can rise above the ugliness and be examples.

Normal kid, Kaden Brown.

Normal kid, Kaden Brown.

Like this family. Kaden would love it if this could all go away. He is a happy kid with a big smile and a great student. I know for certain his mother would like that as well. Their lives are forever changed, but it doesn’t mean we can’t focus on the positivity. Could we grant them this wish?

We could learn a lot from Kaden Brown and his parents.

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Published on: October 19, 2016

Filed Under: Articles, Essays & Poems, Non-Fiction/Memoir

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