I’ve always known that I was very privileged. I grew up in a nice house, we spent summers at a cottage on a lake, I lived in a nice neighborhood and went to private school. I understood the because of my education and financial security, I was lucky to be seen differently by authority figures and such. I take advantage of that all the time.
What I didn’t realize growing up was the most fundamental way that I was privileged. I didn’t realize that all this financial and educational privilege would not have been enough to open opportunities for me if my skin had been a different colour.
The other night, when I heard of the appalling and unjust verdict in the Michael Brown case, I became so upset. What kind of society have we created that lets this happen again and again?
I was walking home from work thinking about this. It was dark out and getting cold. I wasn’t having a very good day and I’m sure it showed in my body language and the way I walked. I was grumpy and wanted to disappear so I pulled my scarf up high and pulled up my jacket hood over so just my eyes peaked out. As people passed me and smiled at my blue/green eyes, I thought about Michael Brown and I thought about my son.
It’s terrifying that a boy just like my son, only black, might be walking down the street feeling tired and upset, trying to hide in his coat and he could be murdered – not harassed or beaten (though that would be bad as well), actually killed on the spot!
As a mother, I worry for my children. I worry about them every day. But the fear that my sweet son would be murdered on the street for being a moody teenager and the murderer will walk free, that’s not high on my list of fears. No mother should ever need to know that fear. But too many do.
I appreciate Kristen at Rage against the Minivan for writing openly about the subtle and overt racism and prejudice that she experiences against her sons. She opens my eyes to barriers that I may not pay much attention to from up in Canada (although they exist here too). I found her post explaining white privilege illuminating.
She also said some powerful words in this recent post:
“The world is watching as Ferguson reacts, and we are seeing a community of people who are angry. Do not let the criminal acts of a small number of protesters distract from the real issues going on in our country. While some may express anger in ways we find inappropriate, the anger is still valid. If my husband cheated on me and I burned his belongings in front of my house, that would be wrong. But it wouldn’t invalidate my anger. It wouldn’t cancel out the fact that what he did wrong.”
There is an enormous problem in what is happening. Children are dying and a people’s right to be angry at this betrayal is being minimized. So I feel obliged to write about this. I owe it to my fellow mothers to speak up. I must add my voice to the rage of those in Ferguson and across the United States. Maybe I have to recognize my privilege and use it to speak out so that those who won’t hear a black mother’s anger will hear mine.
I am angry. I am furious.
Too many children are being murdered by men who are quick to judge and shoot to kill.
The victims are all our sons.
*If you are not quite sure what I mean by white privilege, please read this article by Peggy McIntosh.