Tuesday, November 25, 2014
The bittersweet passion of being a mother in multi color world
Following the grand jury's decision about the fatal shooting of the teenager Michael Brown, I can't stop thinking about what it would be like to be the mother of a young black man in America today. It's not as if I haven't thought about it before. I have. And I've made an effort when possible to help, and as a woman especially my African female friends. But I, like many other white women who are mothers, tend to get wrapped up with what's close to my own life. My own child, her welfare and my daily battles and victories make it easier to forget. I can't pinpoint one particular reason why this tragedy has captured my attention in such a powerful way. But it has. But this morning, I sat down to envision what it would be like to start the day as the mother of a teenage African american boy. I would fix a healthy breakfast while the two of us talked about our plans, to do lists; who we would be seeing and where we would go. And underlying this conversation would be the understanding that my boy's beautiful coffee or deep black skin color could provoke mistreatment and scorn at any given moment in anyplace. I wouldn't have to tell him be careful of the police, they might hurt you, we'd already had that talk. And deep down, I knew there would be times when nothing I could do would change the violence he'd might face. He would already know he shouldn't walk too fast because that would make him look guilty. And unlike the time when my white boyfriend ran down the street toward the drive in dairy in an all black neighborhood at the edge of a ghetto, the police wouldn't pull up and ask if he needed help. Nor should he walk too slow because then he'd look suspicious. He would know not to keep his hands in his pockets and avoid hoodies. As he gathered his books, I would remember the old white woman in the supermarket who took one look at him, turned and sped down another aisle. The time when we'd stopped at a liquor store so I could buy a bottle of wine. I'd disappeared to the back when I heard shouting. Rushing to the front, I saw the owner aiming a gun at my boy. Threatening to kill him. My boy's hands were empty. He hadn't taken a thing. And he was angry. 'Go ahead and shoot me, old man,' he'd shouted. And faced with a gun, what does a mother do? I told the 'gunslinger' we were leaving and dragged my boy outside. My son wouldn't have been happy. He would have resisted, but my visceral instinct as a mother was the overwhelming desire for him to live to see another day. To let him intelligence and creativity take him places he'd only imagined, but was afraid would never happen. I would have told him, there are other ways to promote and support change. Maybe he would already know this because he'd attended the self esteem classes for teen age black boys held by the teenage african american friend of my daughter. And as he left for the day, I would have held him. And as he walked away, wearing his non offensive clothes, with his non offensive hair cut, his careful walk, I would have been hit by the pain of knowing I might not see him again. Of knowing that if he did come home that night, something might have happened that took him to place full of anger and rage. An alien place where a mother's love couldn't enter. A place where a mother's worst night mare would come true. None of these happened to me. They were told to me by African american women who are mothers and friends, soul sisters, grandmothers. I can imagine what it felt like. I can write about it. I've even cried about it. But even, I've gone as far as a white woman can truly know. What I do know down deep is that good mothers have never been more important than they are today. As women who are mothers we need to own that innate power we share and up the ante. Join with others of all colors and creeds. Start in our neighborhoods, at churches, in coffee shops and libraries to talk about how we can empower mothers. As mothers we're usually the ones who spend the most time with children. Invite the rainbow of mothers and children into our homes. Share stories. Stories passed down by our mothers and grandmothers about victories. How we got help. We need to tell them about failure, self forgiveness. How we let go and moved forward. And most of all they need to hear every single day that we haven't lost faith. That we're not giving up. That as mother gatekeepers, we promise to keep the passage that leads to the future open because all children matter.