“Do you think you’d care as much about racism or talk about race as much if I was white?”
My son asked me this at 7:45 a.m. in the car on the way to school last week.
I was speechless for a second and then realized he was looking for an answer.
“You don’t think so?”
“I want desperately to tell you that I would, but I don’t think that’s true. I would care. But being your mom makes me view the world very differently. I wouldn’t be the same person.”
I haven’t stopped thinking about this. I have spent so much time the past seven and half years thinking about who I need to be and become in order to raise a happy, safe, strong, proud, and comfortable black son that I never considered who I would be if he was white.
I see the court rulings, watch the news, hear about the shootings, and each time, I visualize my son’s face. People say and post awful things, inappropriately stare and question and behave in ways that are blatantly prejudiced. I walk into rooms and scan the crowd for people of color and cringe if everyone is white. I think about locations of schools, vacations, camps, sports, and even homes in regards to how diverse they are.
None of this would happen if my son was white.
And yet, I feel grateful. I have been given the gift of seeing and acknowledging my privilege. I have the unique and rare experience as a white woman to navigate life with a slightly different lens. I feel more empathetic, more willing to listen, more open to questioning, and more motivated to make change. More motivated to change myself.
I would experience none of this if my son was white.
And yet with that comes a great deal of anger. An intolerance for the intolerant. An impatience with people that I refuse to apologize for. It comes with an annoyance at the world, the current climate, and this country. A dissatisfaction with how things are not progressing. A constant fear that will never lessen.
I know I wouldn’t feel any of this as deeply if my son was white.
So then who would I be?
I try to visualize this and realize it really doesn’t matter. I am exactly who I am supposed to be. I am the mother of a black son who talks a lot about race and racism.