Summer is approaching, and while this one will certainly be a little different for us all, I will go into it as I have for the last thirteen years: with fear. Being a black mom with a teenage son, every summer feels a little scary for me, and this one is also complicated by the pandemic. And now, with the recent murder of George Floyd by four police officers in Minneapolis, the current riots across our country, killing of protesters, and the pandemic, my fears are at an all time high.
I am worried about my kids and yours. What I want for my son is what I imagine all moms want for their kids during the summertime: I want him to create memories. I want him to have fun, to make friends, to keep learning, to gain responsibility, to grow a little wiser and more mature. Simply, I want him to live through the summer and beyond. I want him to fulfill his dreams.
I can’t help but wonder if my white mom friends have the same fears as I do — that their teenage son might not live to see the 9th grade? I can’t bring myself to watch the video, recorded by a 17-year-old black girl named Darnella Frazier, a brave hero in a war she never signed up for. The video is a reminder that our lives, and that of our kids are taken for granted.
So let’s start with this: What can us moms do and learn from the murder of George Floyd?
Just as the pandemic seemed to unite us as a people struggling to stay alive, no matter our skin color, this culture of racism must unite us too. We should all carry a fear with us, a sense of being shocked and enraged over the repeated and senseless murders of black people at the hands of police officers. We should not turn our heads, hand it over to another generation to deal with, solve, or fix. It must start now.
We all struggle as moms. We talk about these struggles in moms groups, on social media and with our mom friends. We unite over the fact that we love our kids and want the best for them. Let’s come together for this too — to show up for black moms, learn about our struggles, fears, and hopes for our kids. Show up to rallies, events, and sign up for workshops to confront your own biases and learn more about the history of racism in the United States. And bring your kids with you.
We have dreams and wants for our sons and daughters. What if that dream, that hope for your child, was taken away by a police officer who suspected your little boy, young man or daughter of a crime and took that dream away from you — took your child away from you? What if your son was murdered in the streets and laid dead on the cold cement of a busy street one afternoon? How would you feel? Does your white son or daughter’s skin color bring fear to police officers? Do you worry when your kid goes outside to play?
Close your eyes and sit with this feeling. Does it make you uncomfortable? Scared? Worried? Sick? It should.
I’ve grieved for mothers I have never met. For George’s mother, for Breonna’s mother, for Trayvon’s mother, for Atatiana’s mother, for Ahmaud’s mother, and Michael’s and Botham’s and Oscar’s and…the list goes on, of black people murdered by white people and police officers. As moms, we cannot wait until the next black person is murdered by a white police officer to say “What can I do?” or “How can I help?”
I, as a black woman and mom, feel some level of responsibility to help white moms. In this small way, I can at least connect them with the tools to make them a more aware and confident ally not only for moms like me, but for our kids. As a black woman, I am 1.4 times more likely than a white woman to be killed by a police officer. Black men are 2.5 times more likely than white men to be killed by a police officer or have a 1 in 1,000 chance of being killed by a police officer, reports the Journalist’s Resource. a Harvard Kennedy School Publication.
Today is the time to take action to not be reactive the next time a black person is killed at the hands of a white person. Almost eight years ago, I attended a workshop with my then supervisor and my colleague called Undoing Racism. Not only was this an opportunity for us to bond as women, but gave us the opportunity to address our own biases and sit with our own stuff. It opened the door to authentic dialogue between the three of us about race.
Let’s start here. Get in touch with who you are at your core. Just because you grew up in a diverse town, or had a black family friend, or hang out with your black colleague, does not mean you won’t find yourself complicit when microaggressions happen (they happen every single day to black people). Step one of being an ally is putting in the work to be educated, as moms and as allies. In the end, we encourage our own kids to stand up for others, and attending a workshop/seminar/conference on race, will help you to empower your kids to stand up for their black peers or black people when the time comes.
Be uncomfortable. In the company of friends or family or colleagues, be the voice even if you’re the only voice. Speak up against police brutality, against racism, against microaggressions. Your kids are watching you and so are ours. Knock down the notion that just because a black man or woman are handcuffed that they are guilty of the crime. Read Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy, watch Ava DuVernay’s 13th or When They See Us to get a deeper look at what I mean by “be the voice.”
This is the same lesson you will be teaching your kids, to use their voice when it matters. Our kids will be the ones to change this world. They will be the ones who will live in a world void of riots and headlines fueling the rage of the marginalized. But they cannot live in that kind of world without our help.
Use your privilege as white moms to stand up and work towards righting these wrongs. Use it to take a stand, find your voice, and use it. This fight is not just one person’s or one community’s or one race’s battle to fight — it is our war to wage and win. We are the faces and the voices who can push our country forward, and it is not just one person’s responsibility to get us there.
From one mom to another, let’s show up, let’s listen and let’s continue to grow together and save lives. We can be there for and mourn with Philandro’s, Sandra’s, Tamir’s, Eric’s.