One of the blogs I follow is Home of the Urban Chameleon (HOTUC) edited by a serious sista named Haj, whom I'm honored to know. I dig the site because the idea of an Urban Chameleon is a modern twist on the Duboisian ideal of Double Consciousness. The way I internalize it, an urban chameleon has the distinct ability to morph and change "colors" at a moment's notice to adjust to the context he finds himself in. This ability gives the chameleon the ability to survive and thrive in numerous environments. As I follow the insightful posts on HOTUC, I try to relate the issues raised to my life, a great deal of which is dedicated to ensuring the safe passage of my son through the educational pipeline. So it got me to thinking, how does an old head chameleon teach his young to use the powers encoded in his DNA? These are the lessons I've come up with so far:
1. TEACH THE YOUNG CHAMELEON ABOUT COLOR
Even at 2, my son already recognizes differences in skin color, so it is important to help the growing chameleon understand what color means in this country. My little man must understand that he is never to allow people to put him in a box because of his primary skin color. He is also never to judge others based on their differences from him. As he gets older, he will come to understand that the idea of race is also not about color, but of power and privilege. His color does however link him to a cultural history and lineage which he must also learn because an understanding of this ancestry will give him a sense of how to use his multiple colors wisely.
2. IT IS OKAY TO BE MULTICOLORED
It is a blessing to have the ability to move in and out of a variety of contexts seamlessly. This skill does not come without practice. The parent chameleon must be able to provide support as the young one struggles with "color expression". The parent must also help the young one understand why they are placed into various settings meant to help enhance their "color quality". As a youngster this meant understanding why I had to take piano lessons when all I wanted to do was play basketball. Why did I have to take Latin in 7th grade when I was already taking Spanish. Why did I have to go to a private school when most of my friends went to public ones? With each new color that the growing chameleon masters, the parent must continue to reinforce that they are not "selling out" who they are at the core, but instead are learning behaviors and skills that will be of benefit throughout their lifetime.