A White Mom’s view on Ferguson

A mom buried her son today. No matter the color of her skin or the life that her son led, this has to be the saddest day of her life. Another mom is trying to support her police officer son, who has been vilified in the press as having acted irresponsibly. I have three sons and my hope is that they are the ones that bury me, not the other way around. Because their skin is white, they have a privilege that is not held by some of my African-American friends’ sons. Unlike the personal story related by Attorney General Eric Holder, they would probably not be stopped if they were seen running down the street late for the start of a movie. My son may have been treated differently if his skin was dark when he was stopped with a group of his friends jumping off a local bridge.

A few years ago I was driving with one of my daughters, who is Asian, and a friend of my son’s, who is Liberian. I was busy talking to the kids and ran a red light. One block later I was pulled over by a police officer and given a “warning”. We had an interesting conversation that evening about how I would have been treated differently if I was the person with dark skin and the teenagers would have been white.

My Asian daughters recently spent time at a local amusement park with 8 of their friends from Korean culture camp. They were unhappy that their group of 10 Asian teenagers elicited so many stares from bystanders. If they were a group of 10 black teenagers, I suspect they would have had more than stares and been closely monitored by security.

I am a white female. I cannot imagine my daughter’s experience in their lives regarding race, much less what a black male experiences every day. What I can understand are the facts. 50% of murders are committed by blacks and 90% of black victims are murdered by other blacks (Time magazine 9-1-14). A black mother has conversations with her son that I could never imagine. She tells him to stay away from friends that may get him involved in gang activity. She discusses the demeanor he should adopt when talking to a police officer or person of authority.

Will it ever be possible to move beyond skin color in this country? Can we sit down with others and have discussions about race, instead of yelling and screaming at each other? We can start by finding similarities in our lives as a mother to a son; a child who may not always make the best decisions but is not a bad person. These young men need to be held accountable for their actions, but they also need to be treated with fairness no matter their skin color. We as mothers can start the discussions – hopefully our sons can take the lead and continue these discussions with their friends.

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