A Boy and His Flag 

This is our flag. It’s pretty awesome.

After studying American symbols and landmarks in his Kindergarten class, my son came to me and asked for a flag. An American flag. He thought it was the prettiest flag of them all and wanted to hang it up in his room.  Many of you are probably shrugging your shoulders and thinking, “And? What’s the big deal?”

The deal is:

  • We are African American.
  • We are very well educated in our American history (even the shitty Jim Crow/Japanese internment camp parts.)
  • When he asked for the flag we were fresh off of the 2016 elections where an asstool was elected in to the highest office in the land; and the bigots, kluxers, and white power zealots were dancing in the streets.
  • America was nestled firmly on my shitlist at the time.

With all this being taken into consideration…surprisingly… I did not immediately say no to my child. All of these things ran through my head. All of the anger that was inside of me started bouncing around like a tiny rage filled rocket. I didn’t let the kid see this though. I didn’t go into a diatribe about how for the last eight years it seemed as if we as a nation had come so far and now it looked as if it was all falling backwards at a breakneck speed. He is only six. And while he is very smart and I’m sure he would understand many of the facts – at this time – I don’t think he needs to know any of them. He will learn in due time that while there are many things that make America great, there are many things that this country has done and will do that make it a downright shit show. He will learn that once upon a time people had to sit on the back of the bus based on the color of their skin. He will learn that women and minorities have not always been able to vote.  He will learn that not that long ago his best friend’s two mommies could not be married. He will learn that these bovine, inbred, backwoods ass concepts were the law of the land.

Because he will learn the bad things – I need for him to learn the good things first. He will know that his great-great-grand father and great-grandfather became doctors in this country when that was RARE. He will learn that 4th of July fireworks are awesome and so is apple pie. He will learn that spending an entire Saturday in your pajamas is considered a successful day in our house. He will know that there are many races and religions represented in this country and they make fabulous friends and neighbors. He will know that all of those things, when you boil it down, mean happiness and freedom and that is what that flag stands for.  And I mean happiness and freedom for ALL just in case you were wondering.

That is what the flag, that he so eagerly asked me for, stands for. So when he asked me for the flag I looked at his little round face and asked, “A little flag or a big flag?” Of course he wanted big –  so big is what I bought. Since it arrived, he has learned how to properly display the flag, fold the flag, and the ceremony for destroying a flag when it is past its prime.  My brother who is a retired U.S. Air Force vet has offered to make the trip with us to the local American Legion where they will do it for us.

When the time comes he will learn why people will sometimes  fly the flag upside down. Or why some people will burn it and how it is their right to do so if they choose. As his parents we have those conversations now. Those are some heavy discussions; and we think they will be made a wee bit lighter with the knowledge of what good  can be found in those stars and stripes. Call me a tree hugging optimist but I know this country has more than a few things going for it. They are why we live here. They are why we gave birth to him here. They are what we work hard for and champion every day.  They are why this flag flies outside of our front door.

Waving our flag proudly,

The Pinkeltons



On Being the Only Black Kid in the Room – A List for Our Son

Home brewing

Hoping to diversify the future field of craft brewers.

After we met, my husband and I both joked at oftentimes being the only black people in the room. He’s half black/half white and grew up with his mother (who’s white) and her half of the family. I grew up in a black household but both of our interests and hobbies have historically attracted lighter audiences. For some unexplained reason listening to the Violent Femmes, watching My So Called Life, and joining the rowing team aren’t found on the list of things black people like. As a result most of our friends are white. Two chocolate chips on top of the vanilla ice cream. It’s become such a running joke between the two of us that we actually point out any other people of color at weddings or parties we attend and whisper “Hey…we’re the black people at this shindig!” Being able to be the butt of your own sometimes awkward situation takes time, a sense of humor, and thick skin.

Fast forward several years – we marry and have a little person. A little man to be precise. He is now five and has collected several friends during his time on this planet. While they have come in all colors we know that our present living situation in a predominately white neighborhood means that his circle of friends will more than likely resemble our own. With this realization comes a flashback to the outcast moments that I remember vividly. Will he be hurt by the same things I was hurt from? Will he have people say stupid things to him like his dad did?  These trivial school yard thoughts were followed by many more serious ones. Will people target him because of the color of his skin? Will his friends’ parents think he is a thug because he is black? Sadly you cannot respond with, “It’s 2016 and times have changed.” Because as you know, it’s 2016 and in many places times have not changed at all. I am keenly aware that we may not be afforded the luxury of saying “boys will be boys” to explain his teen angst BS. 

Aaron at yoga.

Flying high at yoga class.

We can teach him but we cannot and will not shelter him. We know he has to earn his own bumps and bruises so he can tell great stories in his old age about how he acquired said bumps and bruises. To prepare him for this life here is a list of a few things he will need to know. It is not an exhaustive one by any means – let’s call it a living document that will continue to change as our world does.

Don’t let what other people say about you or to you dictate your path

The Foo Fighters kick ass and you love them. Go to their concerts and know that you will be able to count the brown folks on your left hand. Remember to like music for how it speaks to you; not who you might see at the show. You belong wherever you want to be. Let no one tell you different.

You’ll be asked to be the spokesperson for your entire race – Who can relate to the entire classroom turning around and staring at them when someone brings up the Civil Rights Movement or disproportionality in prison sentences for men or color? This will be you my son. Practice your quick and pithy response until it rolls off of your tongue like butter. You will have an opinion on these things. Don’t be afraid to voice it. If you don’t educate others on what life is like for young black men in America they will only know the story the media tells them.

Sometimes you will hear no and it’s going to suck  – You may want to date someone of a different race and being that we are in the South they (or more likely their parents) might tell you no. There are people who will think you are perfectly great as a friend, but won’t date you because you’re black. It’s happened to both of your parents and you will get through it. The pain you feel is your disappointment in realizing they aren’t as great a person as you once thought they were and that the friendship is going to end.

Black people are going to be the worst The worst stares! The worst comments! The worst attitudes! They will tell you that you aren’t black enough. Call you white boy, Oreo, sellout. The worst of these worst ones will be the other “only black people in the room” who you are attracted to but who refuse to go out with you. Why? Because they don’t date black guys! I wish I was making this up. 

People will want to touch your hair – They do that now so I doubt that it will change anytime soon. It is up to you to decide if you want this to happen. On the one hand you aren’t a petting zoo. But on the other hand you will probably score some dates that way. Make up your own mind on this one. 

People will be shocked by you – You will hear “I didn’t know black people could swim/play lacrosse/mountain bike/insert any other non-football/basketball activity here.” Also, you will hear that you are very well spoken. In all of these instances it is perfectly fine to roll your eyes and walk away. These people cannot be helped.

The Man” may try to bring you down – We all saw that very special episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air when Carlton and Will got arrested for driving Judge Banks’ nice car. Don’t be naive like Carlton. Be smart like Will. Know what they are thinking about you and simply say, “Call my mother.” If they don’t understand the category five hurricane they have coming from me and don’t leave you alone immediately I can’t help them. I am a mama bear and if you need for me to growl at someone just give them my number.

Given all of these things…still love life. People and situations will try to knock you down repeatedly. When you think life sucks, know that life doesn’t suck but this moment in your life does. You keep going while I keep hoping that in the next few years activities are no longer classified as “white” or “black” and that you are less likely to be the only black kid in the room. 

I could simply say, “He will be fine” but what kind of mom would I be if I didn’t stress? It is my hope that he tries everything, feels everything, and risks loving everything (all within reason.) And in the end if he becomes a rapper and changes his name to MC Nut Sack I want him to know we will love him just the same. We will have no idea where he got that sort of behavior from but we’ll love him.