This post originally appeared in my private blog. In light of recent events, I felt it important to share with a wider audience. I wrote this after the mass shooting in a historic black church in Charleston became just one of several tragedies that had occurred throughout the beginning of last summer: when lives became numbers and a person’s worth and judgement became everyone’s job to criticize and determine. It seems this summer has been much the same: violence and hatred and bigotry and judgement and nightmarish tragedies still rule the news and haunt our minds and newsfeeds. We scroll. We turn off the tv. But we can’t get away from it. But the good news is: as parents, we can make a difference. This was my reflection on how and why that’s necessary to cling to in a world that feels so broken.
To: My Little White Boy
Love: Your Big White Momma
CC: The World
I grew up with grandfathers who loved me to pieces and treasured my blonde curls (now lost) and my deep brown eyes (now faded). They had big families and big hearts and empty pockets because all they did was give and love and give some more to their children and their grandchildren and anyone who needed them. They were raised that way: to be good men, and they were; they are.
But they were racist.
They used words like nigger and porch monkey. They believed that the stereotypes of a community were true, the norm, even funny, and that they reflected the behavior and hearts of the whole and not the few.
But these were not hateful men.
My grandfathers loved people. They were kind. They would never be disrespectful to another person because of their color. They worked along side men of all races in the wars they fought for their country. They even had friends who were of different races. It wasn’t the few they knew they believed terrible things about; it was the rest of them.
Here is where our country is failing, my little white boy.
This flawed belief of them: this belief that you can criticize a whole without blaming every individual of a race, this belief that you can say, “I’m not racist,” while you lock your car doors as you drive through a neighborhood that is not your own, the view of what happened in Charleston as being “just another tragedy” by “just another crazy white guy.” No responsibility is taken. No action is being taken. It’s them. They did it. Those hateful, crazy, terrible people. He did it. I’m not like him. So, I’m okay. I’m not part of the problem. I didn’t do it.
And we’re sad. We’re all sad. We’re praying. We’re hoping that nothing like this will ever happen again. But it will. It always does. Because we still think it’s okay to shout until our voices disappear about the injustice of it all while holding our purses a little tighter as we walk downtown. We believe that if we are good men and women that we do not contribute to the problem of racism in this country.
I never realized how my grandfather’s beliefs had permeated into my childhood until I kissed a black boy in sixth grade. I could be friends with him, but he wasn’t allowed to date me. It made everyone (except me) uncomfortable. That was in 1998.
To say that racism in this country is no longer an issue, that everyone is making a bigger deal than necessary out of the violence that has erupted from racial tensions, that the violence that has stemmed from other violence is unprovoked or over the top, that it’s only a problem because we say it is; that is where we are failing.
So, my little white boy, I could sit here and pretend that this world I brought you into is peaceful and kind and wonderful and sunshine and daisies. It would make me feel better. It would make me feel less guilty that I am exposing you to a world that is alight with controversy and yet bathed in apathy.
But I can’t do that.
I can’t pretend that things around here do not need to be fixed. And even though I feel overwhelmed with the responsibility to never imbue racist and judgmental beliefs into your world, I know that others will. I know that poison seeps easily and quickly and often comes from home first, and while I don’t want you to be afraid, I want you to be cautious of it. I want you to know that yes, you ARE a little white boy. You are privileged because our society makes it so and not because you deserve to be more than anyone else. The world is not fair, but it is up to you to be fair while in the world.
And I know it’s up to me to be the kind of person I want you to be. To be the example. To not hide behind difficult topics with an “Amen” and leave it at that. I know it’s up to me to be the example of unalterable love and acceptance of all people we cross paths with, to be kind and dignified and giving to all people, and at utmost, to be the kind of disciple God wishes me to be so that you too may follow in His footsteps.
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples…
And so I promise, my little white boy, to take responsibility for the level of acceptance and tolerance and love in our house. I promise to never use those hateful words and to never tolerate their use. I promise to surround you with knowledge and culture and acceptance and caution but not fear. I promise to love others as He has loved me and as I love you. I will not dictate who you can love or be friends with because of the color of his/her skin or the religion in his/her heart. I will inspire you to be the kind of man who makes changes for everyone and not the few. I will fill you with love so that love is what you bring to the world.
This is my promise, my little white boy, to never blame them for what I choose to perpetuate. Because love, is love, is love, is love, and so is life. And I will actively choose to perpetuate that.