Being “speechless,” though a tempting option, seems wimpy today. I’m afraid to stick my head out from under my awning and into the storm.
Facebook is ripe with “I am a white ally” status updates. Why am I (secretly) judging it? If racism is everywhere, won’t any expression of solidarity help?
I am the mother of three boys that are five generations out from Civil War soldiers who fought to end slavery, four generations after World War II soldiers who fought against the Nazis, and two generations past Civil Rights Movement protestors. Generations of bloodshed.
Yet today, I’m watching Lesley McSpadden weep for the lack of justice shown to her son. And not only that, for the fear it sounds like she lived with for years that this very thing would happen to her son.
And here I am, standing under my awning, irritated, and trying to make sense of myself.
I can repost the news reports and editorials. I will attend a meeting on the Cradle to Prison Pipeline. I don’t mind calling my Congressperson. I can go to more workshops on Race. Protest. I can give money, vote for black leaders, get behind the right Legislation, stand in the street and raise my arms up, criticize the news and expand my media outlets. That is easy — in fact, its trending among pro athletes and rock stars and editorialists and politicians and bloggers.
So what the hell is bothering me?
We will watch this trend die too, just like the generations of slaves and soldiers and black boys with Doritos in their pockets and frightening looks on their faces.
We talk about black people living up to their stereotypes and how they should change that. We don’t talk much about how white men are living up to their reputations of killing unarmed black boys, and how they should probably change that. Until someone dies. Or burns down a mall. Then its all over Facebook.
We’ve tried War, protest, movement and law: big, broad and bloody gestures at change that appear to take steps forward while incessantly falling backward. Instead, we begrudgingly progress over the generations, evolving at the molecular level. So I find myself irritated by our minuscule attempts at change today that will quietly go away when the stars move on.
Then again…racism and protest and anger and rage and disgust are trending today.
And, let’s face it, the broad and obvious steps have not delivered on change.
Perhaps taking the tiny step of posting about how we feel about it on Facebook is a catalyst for change at the molecular level: where change has always been occurring, though depressingly invisible to the naked eye. Isn’t this also where racism is stuck? Under the flesh? In the cells? In the places we can’t see except under the microscope, of say, a murder trial?
Perhaps if we can change ourselves molecule by molecule, we will evolve as a Family.
Once I saw a young, new teacher call out a black child in my son’s class for the exact same behavior my white child had just exhibited. She saw them both act. She chose one child to punish. I don’t know if it was racism that drove her, but probably, neither did she. I ignored it.
When my child brought home happy stories of Martin Luther King and said, “We’re celebrating because the dream he had came true,” I applauded his learning.
When the black college student said at my conference insisted, “as a white organization, partnering with black organizations does not increase your diversity–its racist,” I didn’t ask questions.
I can ally better. I can ask “Why?” “What about now?” And, “Then what do we do?” And I will keep doing it when the stars go back to rocking out, and the microscopes are turned off.
As a mother raising 3 boys, I need a reason to keep my head out from under my awning (its white), step into the storm and risk saying the wrong things. Be honest; we of white privilege need to find our reasons from within. Here is mine:
My three boy’s lives were once threatened by an assailant that was never identified. For about a year, I lived in fear. Weeks of relocation, months of self-defense classes, years of therapy, private investigators, forensic psychologists, alarm systems, supportive neighbors, sheltering friends, a gun in our closet and an escape route planned, we started to feel better. I still wake up every morning afraid and have to remind myself we are ok. Our health changed. Our family changed. Everything changed. I do not remember most of the two years afterward. I imagine living like that everyday of my life, and at the same time fearing the very force weaponized to protect us, and I cannot call that LIFE. I would be angry. I would have a frightening look on my face. I would teach my children to run from police. I would pass down my anger.
If this is all we can offer the mothers of black boys, we are still at War, with unarmed soldiers, and a powerful resistance.
I will raise white allies.