It has been over a week since the verdict of George Zimmerman and a few days since the trial of John Henry Spooner who shot and killed a thirteen-year old boy in my metro community of Milwaukee, Darius Simmons. I kept thinking about the parents of both young boys. My heart breaks for them. As soon as each of my girls were born, I knew that I would do anything to protect my sweet girls. Parenting for me is a struggle between raising my daughters to be independent, young women. I want them to be kind and respectful. My girls are white with kind curly hair and blue eyes. I do not have to have the conversation with her sons like my friend A’Driane has to have. I don’t know the humiliation of racial profiling, subtle racism and systemic racism. I know this. No parent should have to suffer the loss of a child to violence. No parent should have to worry that her teenage son will appear menacing because he wears a hoodie. This case was about race.
I am still naive regarding race. I was guilty of being color blind. I thought that my daughters knew everyone was equal. I did not realize that I needed to get real about race. I read Nurture Shock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman, and it blew me away. I started incorporating conversations about race. I had material literally at our dining room table. We have a place mat of all the United States presidents. I asked my then four-year old to tell me how they were alike and how they were different. My budding feminist pointed out that we had no female presidents. Then she noticed that all but our current president had skin like ours. Only President Obama had brown skin like some of her friends had. I explained the significance and history that had been made when he was first elected.
I am owning up to my privilege. I am a thirty-seven year old white suburban mom who works outside the home. I went to Catholic school from kindergarten through college. I went to a private liberal arts college. My parents paid for a portion of my college education, and I paid for a portion with scholarships and student loans. I studied in Spain for a semester, and I witnessed firsthand the racism that is prevalent in Europe as well as America. The racism I saw in Europe was more overt than it is in the United States. Our racism is more insidious. It is systemic, and we cannot confront it unless we look at ourselves in the mirror. I live in the metro area of Milwaukee which is considered one of the most segregated cities in the US. I read this post of my friend Susan’s, and it made me take a long hard look at myself. I am guilty of making snap judgements based on a person’s appearance. It pains me that I still do that, and I am becoming more self-aware.
We have so much to do still. We need to have those hard conversations. I am starting with myself. I need to do more. I need to call out the handful of friends who make racist jokes. It is not okay. I cannot sit in the corner anymore, feeling uncomfortable. I will not tolerate that anymore. Parenting is about putting my beliefs into actions. I am facing up to my white privilege and supporting all my sisters of all races. I hear the anguish, despair and fear from the African-American community. I stand with them as an ally to say that Trayvon’s life should not be in vain. His family deserves justice. It is not okay that a teenaged boy was stalked and killed because of his appearance.