Recently I ran across a blog post by the mother of three young sons, “A Mother’s White Privilege” by Manic Pixie Dream Mama. I was reminded that those of us in this country, who are white Caucasians, do not have to worry when our teenage sons walk out the door that they will be profiled by every other white Caucasian with whom they come in contact. It’s not something to be proud of.
I was also reminded of the time, when all three of my children were in elementary school. We went up to Sanford for the Martin Luther King Day parade. While standing on the curb, one of the kids commented that we were the only white people there. It was a good lesson in what it might feel like to be a minority. Of course, we had no fear during this peaceful gathering to show respect for Dr. King and his efforts for equality. Little did we know what would happen a couple of decades later in this same town.
As I reflected on the news of the day out of Ferguson, I had a revelation which might sound ridiculous to others. We have three young grandsons, one of whom has a different dad than the other two. He is of “mixed race” (is that what they call it these days?) Through a roll of the dice, DNA put together this beautiful boy with curly hair and big round hazel-colored eyes. He picked up every gene from his African-American father, except for the pigment of his skin.
When we are out and about with this 5 year old wonder child, there are no eyebrows raised, nor concerned stares, because his skin matches ours and his brothers. His mixed race is a non-issue with the rest of the family…we just don’t think about it. He has a loving extended family and sees his dad when he can make the trip here from his out-of-country deployments with the Air Force; and his grandparents visit as often as they can from Oklahoma. The fact that their skin is of a different color is irrelevant to us.
But, as a result of Ferguson, I now worry that, as he grows older, he might be perceived as a threat to those who hold bigotry in their hearts. He might actually experience the prejudice that racism spawns. This discrimination would affect the whole family, not just our grandson. I do not want to have that conversation with the other two boys and destroy the innocence of their childhood. In their young unbiased minds there is no reason that any one of them should be treated differently. Will they face a cruel moment when they see their brother facing hatred fed by bigotry?
I always thought this country would outgrow racism. Robert Kennedy once said that all prejudice can be stopped by parents. If we don’t pass along such hatred, it will just disappear. But that is naïve thinking. When we see a town, like Fruitland Park, having to fire two from its police force for KKK involvement, it’s as if time has stood still, or are we moving backwards?
In the words of Manic Pixie Dream Mama “For a mother, white privilege means your heart doesn’t hit your throat when your kids walk out the door. It means you don’t worry that the cops will shoot your sons. It carries another burden instead. White privilege means that if you don’t school your sons about it, if you don’t insist on its reality and call out oppression, your sons may become something terrifying. Your sons may become the shooters.”
We definitely need to have that conversation…