Talking to White Boys About Ferguson
What is the best way to be an ally right now? It isn’t enough to say that I was heartbroken, furious, and frustrated on Monday night. Decrying the decision not to indict Darren Wilson on social media is insufficient - mine is just another tiny voice in the hurricane of public outrage. And, while down here in Whoville, our collective clamor may lead to some change down the road, I know of one way I can make an impact right now.
I am the mother of two white males.
As a Mom of two white boys, I have the shared worries every parent does about scraped knees, failed math tests and broken hearts; however, it also means I have the luxury of not worrying that my sons will be gunned down by a police officer because the officer thinks my sons may "look like a demon."
We talk about white privilege a lot in our home. As parents, my husband and I are committed to raising aware, compassionate and justice-minded kids. A major part of this is working to actively dismantle those unearned advantages that our own kids have, at the expense of others oppression, and make sure that they never feel entitled to anything because of their racial and gender presentation.
My sons woke up yesterday in bleary-eyed ignorance of the news. As they sat down with their bowls of cereal and began to eat, we started to talk. I was in reporter-mode, laying out the facts as dispassionately as I could muster. My 11-year-old put his spoon down and set his mouth in a grim strip. His 7-year-old brother continued to eat, but had one eye cocked sideways at me.
By the time I had made it through the last line item “and last night, a jury decided that he was not guilty,” both of my sons were staring at me, mouths open, breakfast forgotten. I asked them what they thought about that. The questions began:
“So, they think what he did was right?”
“I thought the police were supposed to stop people killing each other.”
“But why did the cop leave his body there?”
“What’s going to happen next?”
This last question, posed by my youngest son, is the question we are all struggling with right now.
In our town, there were protests and a march that entered and shut down a major highway. This is really a continuation of previous demonstrations that occurred here in reaction to the targeting of young men of color, and public outrage, after one teen died while in police custody and another youth was incarcerated after a police officer shot himself in the leg during a traffic stop.
Across the nation, cities and towns are erupting with this same pent-up grief and anger. International attention to this case has resulted in an outpouring of support from places as far-flung as Mexico and Palestine.
But what, as my second-grader asked, is going to happen next?
The answer is that we don’t know yet. The fight is not lost, just continued, as we await further investigations and the possible civil and federal court cases. Communities are coming together to express shared dismay at the decision in Ferguson.
Parents of black and brown children are having conversations about it with their kids about safety and self-preservation, and with adults about the fear and anguish this brings up. Parents of white children need to be talking, too.
We have to not let this be one discussion over breakfast the day after a blow.
This must be an ongoing conversation we have with our kids- especially our white boys. I have made a commitment to continually challenge the system that promotes my children, over others, because they happened to be born into bodies that look a certain way.
As much as I love my boys, and want them to have all the good things from this life- I cannot allow them to benefit from a corrupt system without facing and actively working against that.
Silence is complicity, so we must keep talking. Because #blacklivesmatter.