I am horrified and heartbroken with the death of George Floyd. Hearing this man in his pain and fear call out for his mama hit the hearts of so many mothers. His death, the circumstances, the aftershock to the world has been overwhelming and I have often felt helpless and unsure.
Let me try to remember that by being white, I may have the privilege to sit back and let things play out. To observe, to stay out of the way as if to assume I am doing no harm.
But it is not enough just to be not racist.
To my fellow white mothers, apathy is no longer an option. Including my own.
I always considered myself an ally to minority communities. I was not racist. I condemned violence against blacks and minorities, I believed I saw them as equals. I was wrong.
I am learning to take an honest inventory of my own apathy and contribution to the racial divide, my contribution to racism.
At best, I have been guilty of wearing blinders. At worst, I have been subtly or even overtly racist without even realizing it. Let me make one thing clear, just because I was not aware, does not mean I should not be held accountable.
It is distressing and poignantly difficult to apprehend the truths about my own privileged attitudes and actions, but I must sit in this discomfort and do the work in this hard space. I must be brave enough to be uncomfortable.
As a Mother, I must be brave enough to be uncomfortable.
I am only just beginning this discovery process, which I expect to become continual work with missteps and setbacks. I am nervous, uneasy and out of my element but here is a short list of the beginning of recognition in my chosen surroundings. I invite you to join in my experiences in relation to your own actions/thoughts/feelings.
- I reviewed the 14 books I have read over the last 2 months – not one of them was written by an author of color.
- I looked through our four year-old son’s children’s books. There were 143 books and eight of them had characters of color, one of which was only a picture of person of color and not a main character, two of which were books specifically about inclusion and race.
- When I considered the movies and any television series our son watches, not one of them has a character of color.
- I looked at my social media feeds and saw I had very little content coming from people of color.
- When I reviewed the companies I consistently support, none of them had leadership or were entrepreneurs of people of color.
- When I reviewed the causes or charities I volunteer for or financially support, none of them are to support people of color.
Bottom line, I have not been listening to the voices of people of color. I have not been exposing my child to the representation of people of color.
I have been setting up my world to exclude people of color.
It is time I hear the voices of people of color, to believe their stories and their experiences. The moment I get offended or irritated by something someone says about white privilege, I must ask myself, “Why am I so defensive?” “What bothers me about that statement?” “Am I afraid I will lose my privilege by acknowledging it?”
I must remember:
White privilege does not mean that my life was not hard or that I have not experienced difficulties but rather my skin color did not contribute to those difficulties.
It is my obligation to do this work.
It is not the black community’s responsibility to teach me.
I Recognize I will make mistakes and it is scary, but those cannot be the reasons to not make a change.
I must be okay with being corrected.
I must be willing to make this a lifelong commitment.
As with anything worth pursuing, this will be painful, and it will be ever evolving but it will be worth it. It is my responsibility.
I am a mother and it begins with me, right now.