If you’re a white mother reading the headlines or watching Minneapolis burn and you’re not outraged, ask yourself one question: Why not?
On this blog I’ve established that I’m not someone who cries very often: a couple of times a year, perhaps; on the other side of giving birth, for sure. It’s not that I don’t feel things very deeply, I do. It’s just that it’s rare for tears to do more than pool in the corners of my eyes.
But last night at 3:00 am I couldn’t sleep and found my way to the bathroom where I sobbed uncontrollably for about an hour. But let me be clear: these were not the tears of white fragility. These were the tears of anger, sadness, pain, and outrage that yet another mother was going to have to bury her son, who was killed for nothing more than being a black man in America.
It made me reflect on the fact that my four children are half-Latinx, but you wouldn’t necessarily know it to look at them. Roberto, their father, is a loud and proud Puerto Rican, born and raised on that gorgeous island we all love so much. You might not know this, but Puerto Ricans come in every color imaginable!
There are those who are as dark as night, gingers with a spray of freckles across the bridge of their noses and the tops of their shoulders, and those who look more like my husband: blue eyed, fair skinned, desperate to slather on sunscreen or risk being burned on a hot Summer’s day.
Pair my husband’s DNA up with mine – Anglo through and through – and you end up with a bunch of kids who speak Spanish, dance salsa and merengue, live for mofongo and pastelillos de carne, queso y guava – but who also have the distinct advantage of moving through America with great privilege because they look white.
I’ve often wondered how all of our lives would be different if they had dark skin to match their Puerto Rican names.
When I tell my teenagers, “Don’t do stupid things with stupid people!” I only have to worry about the usual things we parents of white children have to worry about: Will they make it to adulthood without getting into too much trouble?
I’ve never had to have “the talk” with any of my children. But every parent of a black or brown child in America has. They’ve had to have this talk because they live in fear of their children being targeted solely because of their skin color.
When does the talk and the warnings against the police and how to behave should there ever be any trouble begin? When does a sweet, sensitive, funny and playful young boy become a threatening menace to society because his skin color is not white?
I have an 11-year-old. He’s just about 5 feet tall. He loves anime, Fortnite, writing stories and dancing around the kitchen. He wants to become a farmer/actor/college math professor when he grows up. I can’t help but think that if his skin color was darker, we’d be having the talk probably this Summer, if not before. He’d have to know that in America there are two realities: two systems of justice or injustice, two lands of opportunity or inopportunity, two worlds of safety or danger. And then I would have to explain to him the reason why these two realities exist in the first place: your skin color is either white or it isn’t.
The reason is so ridiculous, so senseless, so steeped in ignorance that I can’t even imagine having to sit my child down and actually say it aloud.
I can’t imagine it – because I’ve lived my entire life in an America that says my life matters more because my skin color is white.
The systemic racism that this country is founded on means that brown and black babies are more at risk – even before they’re born! The black maternal mortality rate continues to be 2-3x more than white women. But if a black mother and child make it through that first year, how long do they have before their child experiences blatant racism? How long before they’re no longer considered cute and sweet? How long do they have as a family before they have to worry about whether or not their child will be the next victim of violence or death at the hands of those who are called to serve and protect?
This is a post written directly to white mothers of white children, because that is my lived experience. And so, I ask you:
What will you teach your children about racism in America? How will you work toward a world where mothers of black and brown children don’t live in fear that they’ll have to bury their sons and daughters too soon solely for the “crime” of being born with dark skin?
A friend of mine living in Minneapolis made a call to action on her FB page to see how many people would be willing to actually do something in light of the most recent headlines. She shared this list of things that white people can do for racial justice that is continually updated to make sure that the actions on the list remain accurate and are still needed today. As a white mother raising (white-looking) Latinx children, I needed some direction to do something with my own feelings of pain and outrage. This list seems like a really good place to start.
If this post has made you feel uncomfortable, I’m okay with that. If you’re a mother, I hope you share in my pain and outrage. Because when I became a mother, I looked at other mothers around the world and understood something universal: we ALL love our children, we ALL want them to be happy and healthy… we ALL want them to outlive us.
That shouldn’t be too much to ask.