Dear White Mothers: I Fear For Your Black Son

Each and every one of us mothers to black sons has had to become an unwilling hero in the story of their lives.
08/17/2017 02:35 pm ET Updated Aug 18, 2017
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You brought a beautiful life into this world, innocent and full of promise. Motherhood was a blessing bestowed upon you by God, one you cherish and feverishly protect each and every day. You’re raising a man, one who potentially will have great influence.

He’s already welcomed in almost every circle: he’s made friends with children at school, he’s respectful to older family members and he’s fawned over by little girls and older women alike. His virtues were even once personified in the President of the United States of America, and because of this, he feels proud.

But one day, he turned on the TV and heard about another little boy who looked like him being killed by the police. And a few months later, he heard of a man who looked like his father being killed by the police… in front of his child. Then after that, he heard news of that presidential role model who once looked like him resigning from office, only to be replaced by someone called a “racist.”

You managed to conceal that word from his vocabulary for several years, and with good reason, right? You felt you’d discuss it when the time was right. After all, you both live in a country more tolerant than it’s ever been in it’s 241-year history!

Or do you?

For months, racism has been at the forefront of our nation’s conversation- and neither you or your son can seem to escape it. You’re not a stupid woman. You know racism exists. But lately, whether it’s the neighbor who starts to stare at your son playing in the backyard or the aunt whose Memorial Day barbecue jokes became a little off-color, you’re seeing people for who they really are and questioning the world around you.

Welcome to the new (old) world around you.

You can’t dramatically shift the thinking of the “alt-right,” white supremacists disguised as second cousins, daycare teachers and next-door neighbors… it’s been tried by forces bigger and bolder than you. The education you’re working so hard to provide for your son, the home in the so-called progressive metro you can barely afford ― none of it matters. Though you’ve raised your son in a progressive household as a biracial or mixed child, to them he is nothing but black, worthy of racism, inequality and disrespect. And spoiler alert: Just because incidents aren’t being reported in your city doesn’t mean they aren’t happening to sons just like yours.

Don’t worry, my son lives here, too. A place where prejudice does not have an age minimum. Where discriminatory protests can occur in broad daylight, for which only the mistreated suffer deadly consequences. In fact, my son lives in a city where men like him are killed by the police and teenage boys who look like him riot in the streets for justice.

You see, you are not alone. You’re raising your son in the most racially diverse generation to date. And though this is an unfortunate circumstance, you should also understand that you don’t live in a silo. Don’t ask yourself why incidents like Charlottesville are becoming prevalent. Instead I ask you: Does this seem like your fight, yet? Now that you know we’re in this together, what will you do? Because with every passing day your son gets older, and with every passing day he becomes more worthy of discrimination. It will become increasingly harder for you to forgive and turn the other cheek, I promise you.

Like the rest of us mothers to black children, will you be a participant in the resolution or a spectator? As the mother of a young black man, will you educate him on the ways of the nation, how he should behave in it and how he will be viewed? Will you talk to him now about his ultimate contribution to black history in America?

Each and every one of us mothers to black sons has had to become an unwilling hero in the story of their lives, in hopes they’re not overcome by white supremacists, neo-Nazis and the Orange Monster. You need to do the same.

I pray for your son every night, just as I pray for my own. Hopefully you’ll make the right decision.

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