My kids are not white.
I am. So, I will never know what it feels like to be them. I will never be Trayvon Martin. But, my sons are. They are going to be young Black men full of promise, walking down the street.
My kids are not white, but I am, and I benefit from this in a gazillion ways that I could not begin to list, or comprehend.
When I was pulled over for speeding when I was 16, I told the cop, and later the judge that I was racing to get to school to take an exam. This was the truth, and the white judge tossed out the ticket the white cop had written. (It was only for going five miles over the speed limit if you must know.) I was screeching with joy when I left the courtroom. My mom told me to lower my voice, I had got off lucky and I should be more contained about it.
Today, if I imagine Sammy being pulled over at 9:00 in the morning in my car racing to school five minutes late how might the outcome be different? *
I have to work actively all the time to not be the oppressor, not the oppressed. When I keep my mouth closed when someone makes a racially tinged joke, I am that oppressor. When I stay quite in a room full of white when I am aching to talk about who is not there, I am colluding. When I shy away from my own voice and power to make change, I am resigning.
When I stand up and read a poem about what it feels like to hold your son in your lap while he sleeps, and ache for the mamas who no longer can, I am joining.
When I read every uncomfortable line I can about the pandemic of racism worldwide I am opening.
My education, my rearing, my curiosity, my world travel, and the many wise women and men I’ve been fortunate enough to learn from in the first forty-five years of my journey have allowed me to say this-I am resisting.
Resisting the allure of racial and class privilege some of the time.
I was given the opportunity to parent my sons by a force of incomprehensible generosity. My sons have given me a mandate that I must continue to evolve as a person, as a mother, an educator. A mandate to try to be a slightly less racist person at the end of the each day then when I woke up. So I work at it. I also get lazy and I forget. I have the option to forget. Therein lies the difference.
My sons are full of promise, just like so many sons and daughters are and were. My job more than ever is to make whatever part of the world I can- a little more able to see as much of their promise as I do. Period.
Push your edges, get uncomfortable, unpack your story of white privilege, and help everyone make some room for them to be all they were meant to be-without fear or trepidation- too.
Not sure how to get started? Here are a few links that have been helpful to me: What I want you to know about being a young black man in America and also from Rage Against the Mini Van this post on 7 action steps towards becoming an anti racist ally. I also found this tumblr very encouraging as people begin to unpack their own acknowledgement of their privilege. It has taken me two days to put this post together. It will take me the next twenty to live up to it.
*Although I do not have the actual statistics in front of me I read a report last year on the increased number of incidences where young men of color end up in detention, or worse, for the exact same type of non aggressive police involved encounters as their white counterparts in Maine and nationally.
Catherine, I have been thinking about you and your precious sons so much in the days since the verdict on the Zimmerman trial. I have been imagining the anger and powerlessness that so many mothers of young black boys and men must feel over this. Thank you for always saying it right — for getting the words out just as they should be said. I will try to be a better white person in our society thanks to your raising my consciousness as to what I need to do. You are the best.
strumming my pain with her fingers, singing my life with her words….killing me softly with her song……you’ve done it again, Mama C. I relate deeply and love you for putting my writhing, aching heart to words. Big love and justice!