I am not usually one to spout my deep, personal feelings publicly, but, as the White mother of a Black teenager, I am raw. I am raw, I am tired, and I am scared.
I want you to know that I see you.
I see the way you see me when I am out alone, a White woman with slightly different facial features than yours (but close enough for you to consider me White). I see the way you see me when I am out with my blue-eyed, blonde haired, very-Swiss-looking daughter. And I see how you see her when she is out alone. I see how you see me when I am out with my brown-eyed, braided, very-Black-looking daughter.
And I see how you see her when she is out alone.
I see your face fall when I tell you my Black daughter was born in East St. Louis, because you were expecting to hear the name of some exotic country in Africa. I see that you expect for me to take it as a compliment when you tell me that she will go far because she was adopted by such a “great family” (and I see that by “great”, you really mean “White”).
I see how you look at me when I ask your high-school aged son, who has no Black friends, to please stop calling his White friends “his n*ggas” in front of my Black daughter because it upsets us. I see how your eyes roll slightly as you tell me that it is okay because that is what Black people call each other, and that I am being overly sensitive.
I see the look on your face as I march past you, yelling “Black Lives Matter” because my daughter’s life matters. I see how red your face gets when you yell back “So do White!” And I see that you don’t understand what my family’s reality is like.
I see you. And I wonder.
I wonder, as I watch your face get redder as you chant to drown us out, if you would understand if I told you about the day a police officer showed up on my doorstep, moments after my daughter and her father had come home from grocery shopping, because a woman had called 911 to report “an inappropriate relationship between an older White man and a young Black girl”. About how apologetic the officer was to us when he explained that this woman had made similar calls in the past when she saw Bi-racial families in the store, but that his job required him to “follow up” on the call.
I wonder if that has ever happened to you.
I wonder, as I watch your face get redder as you chant to drown us out, if you would understand if I told you about how my husband and I have a code word to “Eat Fast” in certain small town restaurants when it becomes clear to us that we are unwelcome. About how, when my daughter was just a tiny, sleeping infant, the owner of one of those restaurants asked me if she could lift up the blanket that I had thrown over her car seat so she could “just get a peak”, only to recoil in horror when she saw that my baby was Black. About how she noticed that I noticed. About how she tried to hide it by telling me that she thought it was “… uhm… wonderful” that my husband and I “would be willing to take in a child from that… … uhm… …creed”.
About how, during this same time period, one of my brother’s friends took me aside at a party and explained to me in no uncertain terms that he “didn’t think the races should mix”. About how I told him that those were the last words he would ever be allowed to speak to me. About how they were. And about how easy that decision was for me to make.
I wonder, as I watch your face get redder as you chant to drown us out, what you would say if I told you about the conversation that I had with my daughter when she was 14. The one we had after Dajerria Becton was slammed to the ground by a police officer at a pool party. The one about how if she is ever at a party and the police come, she should immediately put both hands up in the air and be more polite than she has ever been in her life. The one about how it doesn’t matter what the other kids are doing. I wonder if you would realize how we many times we have had this conversation. After Kiwane Carrington. After Michael Brown. After Tamir Rice. After every one of them.
I wonder if you have to have conversations like that with your White children. I never had to have them with my White daughter.
I wonder. And I see.
I see that you mean well when you say that “All Lives Matter”. Because they do. But it is the Black lives that are hurting right now. It is the mothers (and fathers) of Black children that are afraid right now. It is the Black voices that we, as White people, need to listen to right now.
When I hear you say, “All Lives Matter”, I see you.
I see you… differently.
I see you as someone who cares, but who also has the luxury (dare I say…privilege?) of choosing when and where you get to think about this issue. I don’t have that luxury. I live this every day.
I see you as someone who cares, but who has a limited understanding of the reality of Black and Bi-racial families living in the US. As the White mother of a Black child, I wish you would try to expand that view.
I also understand that this is hard. You will need to put your own ego, assumptions, and feelings aside and just listen. Really listen to the voices that are crying for help right now. Not listen to refute an idea or find a flaw in an argument, but simply listen. To learn more. To expand your understanding. To… grow.
I want to live in a culture where “All Lives Matter”, but right now, to this White mother of a Black child, some lives seem to matter more than others. I see this when I turn on the news. I see this in the way Blacks are portrayed in children’s movies and in the History books at school.
And I see this in the way I see you see me.