I look at the growing list of recent deaths of black men in police custody, and the reactions to them, with a mix of horror and hope. Horror at the way some black men are treated in this country and hope at the waves of public anger that rise up to meet each senseless death in protest demanding change.
I view these events through the lens I have used to view everything over the last eight years -- as a parent. And as a parent I know that these issues affect us all and that moms of every color and culture need to talk to their children and be a part of the solution.
How will I explain to my sons that the police sometimes kill? How will I explain to them that although they are white they have an obligation to put their privilege aside and stand in solidarity with their African-American friends? That despite what they have been taught in school, skin color still matters in this country and is sometimes a matter of life and death? That their friends with darker skin may feel the need to throw their hands in their air when they see a police officer approaching instead of feeling a sense of safety and security?
By nothing more than the circumstances of my sons' birth they will never be questioned about whether they belong in our quiet, affluent neighborhood. No specter of suspicion will cause a nervous neighbor to call the police when she seems them passing by or to cross the street out of fear. They will not be quietly maligned with taxis and opportunities passing them by for no other reason than the color of their skin. This is not fair. After so much struggle and so much sacrifice this should not be the way things are in 2015.
How will my young sons react when I have these conversations with them? I know they will be difficult conversations, ones I will dread having because they will challenge my young sons' views of what is right and wrong and of who is good and who is bad. But, I know that we are nevertheless fortunate. Because my sons are fair rather than dark I will not need to tell them as they enter young adulthood that they need to be cautious around the police, that there are very real consequences for not being so, and that a misstep could be fatal. I do not envy the mothers who need to have these much weightier conversations with their sons.
When they are older I hope that my sons will be brave enough to speak up for injustice when and where they see it. That they will stand up for what is right. That they will bring about real change. For now, I hope that they will be kind and act on what they intuitively know -- that everyone deserves to be treated the same. That all lives matter.
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