Sunday, July 14, 2013
But they're not. The only outraged comments I saw on Facebook today were from Black people or the parents of mixed-race kids. Only one of my White friends said anything about it at all!
Many of the outraged comments were about things I can deeply relate to and wrote about when Treyvon Martin was killed. As the mother of the now-adult Black man on the left, I understand the fears of every mother of a Black man. I've read some insightful and even witty responses to the not guilty verdict of George Zimmerman. Among the best is this post by Alex Fraser.
But the most poignant thing for me came in a discussion with this
In our discussion, she asked why the man would kill the boy who was just walking through the neighborhood. The easy answer was, "Because he was Black," but that didn't seem right to me. It wasn't that simple. Almost everyone, including George Zimmerman, would deny that the color of a person's skin is a reason to kill them... Finally, I answered, "Because the man was scared of the boy."
She persisted, "But why was he afraid of the boy?" And I said, "Unfortunately, lots of people are scared of Black boys and men." "That's dumb," she said. "J's not scary!" See, J is the little boy in the picture above, my son. Our 6-year-old's birth father. Her adoptive brother. Family. Known.
How would this situation have been different if George Zimmerman had known Treyvon Martin... or anyone like him? How would the jury have decided if it had included Treyvon's peers, instead of being all almost all White? (There was one female minority juror of undetermined descent.) If someone on the jury had known what it was like to be a young Black man?
How might you feel differently about the verdict if you have truly known young Black men? White Privilege is such an insidious beast...
And again I'm struck by my own White Privilege these days: I could have chosen to ignore the verdict with my six-year-old. I almost did! I didn't have any choice at all in addressing similar events when my first two kiddos were young. By the age of six, my older daughter had been repeatedly screamed at to keep her "n*** a**" off a neighbor's lawn. By the age of six, my son was being followed in stores, even when he was with me. By the age of six, there were neighbor kids we knew never to invite to play...because they would always tell my kids they couldn't do something-or-other because they were Black.
Six-year-old Black kids know the injustice and discrimination of today's America. It is only the White kids and the White kids' parents who have the privilege of ignoring race.
So, if you are White, connect yourself to the Black community. No, it's not easy. No, it's not comfortable. But it is essential! And if you are a White parent, don't assume the White Privilege of ignoring race. Talk about racial issues, news stories, etc. Intentionally take your child places where children from many backgrounds are present. And be connected, so they'll be connected.
It will take all of us to make a new future for each of us. Make it personal, like it is for all of us who love young Black men.