Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Black and White

I have been ruminating on the killing of Treyvon Martin for several weeks now. I'm sure lots of people have been. It's incredibly personal to me. You see, I'm the mother of a young Black man.

My first two children are biracial, African American/White. They are in their mid-twenties now and on their own, but that doesn't mean I don't worry about them. Especially my son. As a young Black man, he is in a high risk category. The same category as Treyvon Martin.

I remember teaching my son to drive. The most important lesson wasn't how to shift gears or brake safely on ice; the most important lesson was "What to do when you are stopped by the police." Like... Keep your hands in plain sight and STILL. And... Say "Yes, Sir" or "No, Ma'am" and THAT'S IT. No smart mouth! I must have taught him well because he's been stopped many times, and he's still alive.

I've been thinking a lot about White Privilege since Treyvon Martin's murder. How so many White people truly believe that things have changed. And about how my two adult children experience life so differently from what I did as a young White adult. How the issues of Black and White are anything but black and white.

And then...
A realization that should've been blatant to me, but was shocking in its ability to hide: I have basked in White Privilege ever since I became a parent to my youngest child. She is five years old, and she looks White. She is actually of mixed races, but she looks White, which in America still means she's White.

Which means she "fits" me, to the outside world. Which means WE, as a family, are privileged to: 1) Live where we want without comment; 2) Attend events with no sideways glances from either White or Black people; 3) Never be questioned about whether she's "really mine;" 4) Let her look at the Disney Princesses while I shop for a camera at Target (within sight, but I never would've done that with my first two children); and 5) Many more things that I haven't thought of yet, I'm sure.

And the thought of living inside White Privilege hadn't even crossed my mind until Treyvon Martin's killing. Not even a whisper of it. That's how insidious White Privilege is. It's just "normal." Doesn't everyone think, live, act like that? If not, THEY must have a problem.

THEIR problem is that WE are so blind to the institutional prejudices in our society, to the habits of thought and behavior that are considered so normal that we don't even notice them.

If you want to know whether discrimination and prejudice are gone from our society, ASK. Then LISTEN. Ask more than one person. Read some of the blogs and articles written after Treyvon Martin's murder.  ASK my son what it's like to shop at the mall as a young Black man; I'll bet it's different from your experiences. ASK my daughter how many times she's been pulled over for DWB. Ask every mother of a young Black man what worries them.

Just ASK.
Then trust that the truth is more complicated than a life lived inside White Privilege.

I think the reality of the world is NOT black and white; it's FULL-COLOR. Like glass. Each type of glass, each shading and pattern, is unique.

Like each person. That's the beauty of it.

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