This week has been so heavy. I have worked so hard to listen. So hard. I’ve sat behind this screen with my 14 year old son and daughter, who are both African-American, sitting next to me. We’ve read together. We’ve laughed at some of the comments that are so ridiculous that all you can do is laugh. Some are so strong, so emotional, so life changing, that we absolutely need to just be silent.
I have worked so very hard, as a white mother of black children, to figure out where my place is in this, for them. I have listened. I have helped them reflect. I have done my best to be their mirror so that they can see their words, and sometimes their anger, and the power they both have to effect change or to shut the conversation down.
I have never said “calm down” to them. People of their color have been told to “calm down” for far too long. That won’t happen here. Not now, not ever. I have asked them to “stay calm to save their life”, outside of this home. But, in this home, in a discussion that becomes emotional, you don’t have to calm down. Cry, rant, swear, and tell me you’re afraid. Right now, that’s my role, to listen and to comfort.
In online interactions, when I see hate thrown around like confetti, I’ve asked them what they think, how they would respond. Sometimes I don’t give all the details of what the hate speech involved, sometimes I absolutely do. Sometimes I had to tell them that someone has just listed all the erroneous reasons they thought someone of their skin color brought their own death upon themselves. Do you know what that does to their innocence? I can imagine it does the same to the child of a police officer who, this week, learned that their parent is a target simply because of the uniform they put on to go to work. We spoke about that too.
I’ve been outspoken in a way THEY have guided. I reflect what I see going on in their hearts and minds. Pretty soon they’ll have their own social media accounts, and you’ll hear it directly from them. Right now, I do act as their filter. I want to shield them in every way I can, if only just for even one more day. I’ve taken flack via social media that I haven’t told them about. I’ve gotten private messages of support, but I’ve gotten an equal number of them filled with hate. “Your children will be militants.” “You know you’re raising the next Micah Johnson.”
They are not. I am not.
We want no more violence. We want no more harm to property, or to people. We want NO.MORE. That’s what this is all about.
I did get a few messages telling me that what the kids and I were saying had resonated with them. They were asking me what to say to their black friends, where to start learning? Because, they were ready to acknowledge the disparity.
Those are the messages I wept at. As their mother, that is important to me. I want people to want to learn to do better. All of us can continue to learn.
But, I can’t talk to you about blackness, because beyond what my children tell me, I know nothing of it. I listen to my friends of color. I listen to my children. But, I never talk about them being black with them beyond asking questions about how they feel about it. It is not my place to tell them how to feel about living in their own skin.
Instead, I talk about my being white.
Why is my skin color considered the norm? Why is my white privilege so often ignored? I talk about the ways I have it easier in so many situations. I talk about the assumptions that are made about me, versus the assumptions I’ve personally seen made about them. We talk about race in relation to ME too, and not just to them, because fair is fair. I don’t want them to think that they are anything but the norm too. We all have experiences that shape us. Their experiences, in regards to their race, are no less “normal” then mine. They are simply, nearly always, so much more unjust.
I am not ashamed of the color of my skin. Not at all. I am the whitest white person there is. For the love of all that’s holy, my name is Becky. That name has become synonymous with female whiteness. Culturally, I am white as well. My whiteness has shaped nearly everything about me, good and bad. What I acknowledge is that people of my skin color have long been afforded more of nearly everything because of the color of their skin. It doesn’t wound me, or negate me as a human being, to admit that. It doesn’t make me wrong, or racist. I am those things all on my own on occasion. I acknowledge that too. Occasionally, I am ignorant. Sometimes, that ignorance crosses a line to racism. When that occurs, I check myself. I apologize. I am human. I will never condemn you if you are willing to learn. I will condemn you if you aren’t.
If you are unwilling and unapologetic in your ignorance, well, I will tell you you’re being racist. I have done it several times in the past few days. I used to be afraid of that word. Releasing that fear has been pivotal in acknowledging my need for education. My name is Becky, and in the past, and to this day, I do and say racist things. I am sorry about that, and I strive to do better. They have heard me say this.
So, the only thing I can tell you is that I try to create as safe of a space as possible for my black children to openly talk to me about their experience of being black. A space with no judgment. A space that acknowledges the inequity and stops the antiquated notion that we should be colorblind.
It’s okay to explore your whiteness and how it may have shaped your perception of others.
Are you looking for a place to start?
Are you looking for a place to help you reflect on the events of this past week? A place to simply listen. Because really, nothing else is required of you currently.
–FullPlateMom, who is looking for a way to keep her babies woke.