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I've become that woman I hated when I was teenager. Actually, I hated everyone when I was teen, but the mom (or in my case my Aunt
Maude) who just wouldn't leave me alone in my teen-ness ranked high on the
Aunt Maude was also a schoolteacher. She was always having conversations
about my summer reading list. Her refrigerator had a list of healthy food
choices on it. During dinnertime she'd always find a way to initiate a
conversation about local and federal politics and the benefits and challenges
of various polices. I always felt myself shrinking in her presence. I was
always afraid I'd say something wrong or stupid, or worse yet, have to say
anything at all.
She was also the aunt who took me to several Broadway shows
before I was 12 years old. Her mission was to educate me, and she did so at
all costs. My aunt, believing that you become what you focus on, did what she
could to guide my cousins and me and into areas she thought would benefit our
Today's kids are not influenced by only TV and rock music.
Technology has brought countless ideas and art forms into our lives, making it
nearly impossible to monitor what gets into the minds of our children. Language
that I find disturbing, like the "n word" and "bitch" seems to be commonplace now, especially in contemporary music.
But something has changed. My aunt's voice rings in my ears.
This past week I found myself in
a popular boutique for women. There were a few children there with their moms,
and most of the shoppers were young women. As I looked for jeans, the loud rap
music streaming through the store was somewhat distracting, but easy enough to
tune out. It wasn't until I heard the "n word" resound out of the speaker that I
felt my temperature rise. Looking around the store, I noticed that I was both
the only black person shopping there and the only person who seemed to notice
the music. I located a young Asian woman who worked at the store, and after our
introduction, I shared with her how shocking it was to hear the word "nigger"
swimming through the store as we shopped. I used the word, just as the rapper
had, having no desire to make it sweeter. She was horrified, apologized and
went to quickly change the station.
A similar thing happened the next day at a community barbecue
where there were at least 50 children under the age of 10 in attendance. I
heard a 10-year-old boy singing what he would do to a woman's "jiggling
booty." I marched right over to the DJ and asked if he'd considered his
audience before choosing the music he was playing. He started playing oldies
soon after, which made me sad. I'd heard these songs growing up on my aunt's
home. It seems we have to go back 40 years to find music that isn't full of
Before I was a mom, contemporary music served as my anthems.
I'd dance for hours to songs that promoted the worst treatment of women and
used the "n word" like life depended on it. I could turn it up and would do so freely. But something has changed. My aunt's
voice rings in my ears. "All that nasty language, those messages and
images? They're not good for you, Monique."
She was right; if the least offensive
outcome is a numbness to the misogyny and self-loathing, that is a sorry
outcome indeed. So yes, I've become the woman that I tried hiding from when I
was teen. I'm the mom challenging people around me about what we are exposing
our kids to and the impact it has on them. These days I don't hate her, but I'm
certain someone does.