Raising Dion: The Burden of being a Black Child
There is an amazing series on Netflix called Raising Dion. The show chronicles the story of a black mother, Nicole, who is left single after the tragic death of her husband Mark. Nicole has to uproot her life in the wake of her husband’s death. Her world is further turned upside down when she realizes that her young son Dion possesses superpowers.
The show has the prefect mixture of tenderness, adventure, and Sci-fi to keep any audience engaged. I love Rasing Dion so much that I have refused to binge watch, so that I won’t run out of episodes too fast.
Dion is adorable and I like that Nicole’s grief over Mark’s death feels realistic and is not pushed aside as you see in other fictional portrayals. As a mater of fact, the show is about a pint-sized hero, but very mature themes are tackled throughout the series. Depression, personal boundaries, physical disabilities, medical healthcare denial, and other social issues are all discussed in Raising Dion. Despite the fact, I was super disappointed when the topic of racism was covered.
Because of Mark’s death, Dion and Nicole have had to move from their nice home to an apartment. The only school in zone of this apartment is a predominantly white school. Dion is having a hard time fitting in. His woes are not because of his race, but because he misses his old friends, his dad, and his old way of life. He desperately wants to fit in with the cool kids, but they bully him.
When one of the ‘cool’ white kids tricks Dion out of his father’s special watch, Dion loses control of his powers and the white kid is pushed to the ground by the supernatural waves flowing from Dion’s body.
Dion did not try to push the child and the boy’s head was turned in another direction during the incident so he has no idea if Dion is actually responsible. The school’s white male principle walks in on the situation and sees the bully on the ground. The principle then says some very demeaning things to Dion with very racist undertones.
Even through the principle finds out the white kid was the aggressor, Dion is the one who he sentences to after-school detention. The white principle even throws a passive aggressive racist taut out to the Black male teacher who tries to positively intervene on the situation.
Later that night, Nicole sadly decides to have “the talk” with Dion – the talk about racism. She explains that because of the color of his skin, many people may decide to treat him badly. Their poor treatment, she adds, has nothing to do with Dion, but everything to do with their own bad ideas. Dion goes to bed angry and heartbroken, rightly so.
After this episode I walked away from the show. I didn’t really desire to see another episode. I know that in real life racism is a factual thing and many black little boys and girls many have to suffer unfair circumstances because of the color of their skin, but I didn’t want this topic to appear in children’s fiction.
For the first time ever, kids have a black child depicted as a super hero. To me this is a series for kids to escape into and relate to, feeling that they too could be powerful and pose supernatural abilities. I didn’t want a black child to walk away from something that should be empowering as a disempowered individual.
As I often do, I started to mentally spiral. As I stated in this article (click here), where I envision Tamir Rice as my son, my contribution to my future children’s DNA will be largely black. I pondered if I too should have “The Talk” with my future kid and break their little heart. I went to bed sad and conflicted.
The very next day my sister texted something that really brought things into perspective.
My niece is 9. She is smart, she is beautiful, and amazingly talented at many things. Though she can be a little sassy at home, she is an angel at school. I was the same kid at her age- a gift from God at school and maybe a gift from someplace else at home. However my niece tries her best and will cry before she undermines any adult in authority. After school, my niece runs in a track program called Girls on the Run.
She LOVES Girls on the Run and talks about it often at home and with me. One day she came over to my place after school and told my sister and I that she no longer wanted to do Girls on the Run. We were shocked.
My sister asked surprised, “You love Girls on the Run, why stop?” My niece retorted with a lame excuse. In my spirit, I knew there was more to the story. I told my sister to press her further. The next day when my sister urged my niece again she learned that her white female coach told her, “You’re bad, and one day your kids are going to be bad just like you.”
My niece isn’t “bad” especially not at school and she has always been praised for being a good girl and a team player by other coaches and teachers in the past. I was appalled, I was angry, but more than anything I remembered Raising Dion.
What if Dion was a white kid named David? The only things David would have to worry about is finding new friends and adjusting to his powers. Dion, as a black child, does not have that kind of freedom. Not only does Dion have to overcome the normal growing pains, but he is challenged with the added stress the color of his skin presents.
I think I was angry at this potion of the show because I wanted little black boys and girls to have an outlet to be innocent. I wanted them to look at a show and for once see themselves as powerful and not victimized. The reality is black kids need to see Dion face racism and the disappointment thereof, because it is their reality.
My niece can come home from such a blatant racist attack, from a coach she once admired, at a program she once loved, and watch Dion’s plight and feel a little less lonely.
As much as I hate it with my entire heart, black little boys like Tamir Rice and Trayon Martin, sometime don’t make it home because of the color of their skin. Sometimes black young men and women like Atatiana Jefferson and Botham Jean don’t make it off their own couches because of the color of their skin. This is a particular unfair burden that African American children have to bear and perhaps they do need to see a fictional hero like Dion bear the cross too.
To my beautiful brown-skinned girls like my niece and the handsome brown-skinned boys like Dion, hold your head up. You are beautiful, you are talented, and their will come a time where people will be judged on the content of their character rather than the color of there skin. You are NOT bad, there is nothing bad about you, and you too can be the hero.