I am an angry white mama.
Really, this feels like furious. Enraged. The phrase “burning with the fire of a thousand suns” rings true.
You see, I bought the story. The one about mamas making the world safe for their children. Yes, there are accidents, even tragedies, but mothers do everything in their power to send their kids into a safe space. Somewhere they can use their tools to face pain and find joy. That while the world might not always be fair, it could at least be reliable. This year cracked the truth wide open.
No doubt there are black parents shaking their heads at this point. They’ve known for a long time the lessons we’re learning.
So I’m gonna talk straight with my white readers. Don’t get your hackles up. Sometimes folks see “white people” and think that’s code for racist but for real, this is what I mean. This is only what I mean. Are you not brown? Then this part’s for you.
The idea that we send our kids out into the world on even footing is a white precept. The concept that our work with our children at home – emotionally, spiritually, intellectually – will ensure they’re seen for the person they are is a white construct. Being non-brown myself, I stood firm in the belief of an even playing field. Their actions, integrity, track record…what else would someone judge my child by?
Sure, I accepted bias, prejudice, and racism as truths – as truths I needed to prepare my child for Out There, in the big bad world. We talked with the kids about scenarios, times when the color of their skin might be seen first. Times when the color of their skin might be the only thing seen.
But I lost sight of the fact that my kids walk around in brown skin every single day. They aren’t just brown in stores and during traffic stops. They’re brown in school, at clubs, and on teams. They’re brown when they’re outside playing and when they go to the movies with their friends. They’re brown 24/7, and what I see as beautiful also puts a spotlight on them.
Middle school destroyed the construct for me. I thought I could send my kids off to school – a building of educators, for god’s sake – trusting they’d be seen for the people they are. No, they’re not perfect, but these are good kids. They’re kind hearted, make good grades, participate in class…teachers tell us they’re lucky to have them…they’ve never been called to the office for discipline. Not once.
Yet they catch heat for having phones out, getting water between classes, or talking with friends. Are these things not allowed? Sometimes. But my kids are smart. They notice when four white kids are doing the same thing but they’re the ones called out. They notice when teachers write off race based bullying as middle schoolers being middle schoolers. They notice when the consequence for singing a KKK song and stealing a lunch box are identical. They notice.
“Laura, you’ve got great kids. Middle school is just really tough.”
To this I say, with deepest sincerity, bullshit.
The pain of being singled out, day after day, for being dark, ashy, different, [fill in the blank with whatever redneck slur fits that day] is bottomless. This is not “middle school tough.” This is “black in America” tough.
And it is not okay.