It’s time for me to say the things here that I say in my home, in safe place, inside my walls.
It’s time to say we have a problem. And I want to be part of the solution.
Tonight, I’ve been glued to my tv, watching the news about Michael Brown and Darren Wilson. I waited for the announcement that Wilson would NOT be indicted for shooting an unarmed man 10+ times, despite knowing in my heart that it wouldn’t happen.
It was never going to happen.
Since August, when 18 year old Michael Brown was gunned down in Ferguson, MO., after committing a minor crime in broad daylight with no weapon, I’ve been listening. Actually, since Trayvon Martin was gunned down while walking unarmed, to tell the truth. I’ve been listening to moms of black boys and learning that my America is nothing like their America. And I’ve been afraid to talk about it.
I talk about it some, with them, or at home. In crowds that I KNOW feel the same. Safe places. I’ve known it wasn’t good enough, but I was afraid. Afraid of speaking out and saying the wrong thing. Afraid of being just another sound in the void. Afraid of it not mattering to those I want it to matter to most.
But tonight, as I was awaiting this verdict, sighing with impatience with how long it was taking, and then getting annoyed when, minutes before it was supposed to start, my son, my precious, blonde-haired, blue-eyed boy, got out of bed to go to the bathroom way past his bedtime, I remembered that there are many, many mothers who don’t have the luxury of dealing with a bedtime potty break tonight. So I let go of my impatience and cherished that moment.
If you are happy, or feel somewhat vindicated by the announcement tonight, I’d like to remind you that no matter if you believe that Wilson was justified in shooting Michael Brown, a mother goes to bed tonight without her son.
I’d like to remind you that many other mothers, who are a lot like me, but have one major difference than me (and many of you) are going to bed tonight knowing that sometime, either soon or later, they will have to sit their boys down and stop them from playing with whatever random toy they are making a mess with or whatever video game is beeping away, and tell them that America doesn’t trust them.
That America is afraid of them.
That they are more likely, WAY more likely, to be shot by a cop than their white friends.
That if they get pulled over for speeding, they have to act a very certain way to avoid arrest, at best.
That people will lock their doors when they walk past.
That people will call the cops if they ride their bike down the street.
That certain girls won’t be able to date them because it will “hurt their reputation.”
That no matter how good you are, how smart you are, how well-dressed you are, it will rarely make a difference for some people.
I don’t have to tell my sons these things. And if you are reading this, chances are, you won’t either.
Think about that for a minute.
Don’t immediately get defensive. THINK ABOUT THAT. Don’t think about that “thug” kid in high school, or the mug shot you saw on TV. Think about the little 10-year-old boy that has to understand the fear that he doesn’t want to instill. Think about the moms and dads going to bed tonight, fearful that their son could be next.
Sometimes these problems seem insurmountable. I don’t claim to have the first clue how to heal our country from these types of things. But it’s up to us, the white people of America, to work to heal this.
Yes, it is up to us. Because we hold the power. And the bias.
Yes, black people can have bias. Of course they can. And yes, a black man is in the Oval Office. Those things don’t matter. Not really.
Here’s what I’m trying to do to fix this. And it’s all I know to do.
I seek out diversity. I make up for the lost time I spent in an all-white neighborhood, an all-white church and a mainly white education. I cultivate my friendships with people of color and diversity HARD. I don’t just have “black friends.” I work at those relationships. Same with friends of different sexuality, religion, and yes, even political beliefs. I seek them out, I put in effort and I HEAR them. If you don’t know what I mean, I encourage you to pay attention to your friends of color on social media. Don’t have any? THAT IS A PROBLEM. This is 2014. We live in a flat world. We can access any corner of the globe at any second. If everyone around you looks like you, you are part of the problem. If you DO have friends of color, pause for a minute. Visit their Facebook pages, see what blogs they are sharing. Read them through THEIR eyes. Think about how things YOU post make them feel. CARE about that.
I also encourage you to seek out voices of color on your own. Read Essence at the hair salon instead of Cosmo. Seriously, have you ever done that? I did that recently, and I’ll be honest, it felt strange at first. “This magazine isn’t *for* me,” I thought. So what?? You think a black woman needs to hear about Cameron Diaz’s tricks to getting her hair to look like that? She gets it anyway. But I picked it up anyway, and GUESS WHAT? I learned a few things and enjoyed the read just the same.
Find some black bloggers or podcasts. They don’t even have to talk about “black things!” Or they can! Want a list? I’ll give you several. Here:
- http://www.awesomelyluvvie.com/ (Pop culture, recaps, hilarity.)
- http://bitchesgottaeat.blogspot.com/ (worst language in the funniest way I’ve ever read.)
- http://thesmartness.com/ (Kick-ass writer, educator and graphic designer. She designed my new logo!!)
- http://snapjudgment.org/ (just great storytelling! About everyone!)
- http://www.kellywickham.com/ (If you really want an education.)
The first key to healing this nation is empathy. And with the accidental (or not) segregation that many of us live in, it can’t exist. We have to come together, as cheesy as that sounds. And as white people, we have to LISTEN. Our opinion isn’t needed, but our support is.
I also send my other blonde-haired son to a magnet school. The school is a great school with great programs and challenges that are ideal for him. It is also diverse. He attends school with kids that are of different races, social class, ethnicities and religion. That aspect means more to me than the academic ones. Because again, I am raising white, American males. I need them to see beyond themselves, because this country is set up FOR THEM. And if I don’t force them to see outside their own world, they will never have to.
What does that mean, exactly? Well, look around, white folks. Who is on your TV? Your radio? Your newspaper? Your office? Your grocery store? Other white folks. Now, imagine being black, especially here in Knoxville. Who looks like you? Sure, some people do. But how many black teachers are at your school? What color is your doctor? Your boss? Your coworkers? Chances are, they don’t look the same as you do. That makes their reality very different from ours. Because there’s no empathy if no one looks like you or has experienced what you have experienced.
Not everyone can make the school decision we did, and I don’t expect you to. But if everyone in your child’s school looks like them and lives like them, they aren’t learning about the whole world, and that is a disservice.
Because someday, my son could be a cop. And maybe he won’t shoot the black kid on the street. Maybe that’s how we make change.