My heart is so heavy from the events of this past week, from the senseless violence that has taken too many lives for no reason. Black men, policemen. None of it makes any damn sense.
Now almost 10, Little Man and I have been discussing race for a while now. As I’ve said before, I have to be careful what I share with him, as takes things hard and holds on to them for a long time. He does not know about Alton Sterling or Philando Castile or Dallas, TX. But he knows there are people who make assumptions and take actions based on race and it literally just does not compute with him.
This past week we were talking and somehow got onto the topic of the KKK. Little Man commented on how horrible they were, then said, ‘well, at least they aren’t around anymore, thank goodness.’
‘Yes, I said, ‘the KKK is indeed still around, along with other hateful groups and people.’
‘But they don’t hurt people, anymore, right? Like physically hurt them?’ And I had to tell him yes, sometimes they do.
‘Really? But they don’t,’ his voice got quiet, ‘they don’t kill people, do they?’ And I had to tell him yes, they sometimes do.
‘But why? Why would you hurt someone like that just because of their skin?’ And he fell silent.
Earlier this summer, we started talking about White Privilege. About how lucky we are to have certain things and how even without us doing anything, we get treated differently because of our skin color.
‘What do you mean?’ he asked.
As a very basic example, I explained how if we went into a store to look around, we might be greeted and smiled at and welcomed to ask questions if we needed help, while at the very same store, the very same clerk might follow around a person with brown skin and treat them suspiciously, even though they had no reason whatsoever to treat them that way.
We had talked before about how people who actually commit crimes are sometimes treated differently for the same crime and that statistically African Americans are convicted at a higher rate and with greater sentences than white people because of an inherent prejudice in the system.
I explained that even though we don’t ask or expect to be treated differently, we still are.
His brow furrowed as he tried to process information. And then, distraught, he said, ‘I don’t WANT to have privilege! I don’t want people to treat me differently! And I don’t want people to treat people with tan or brown or black skin differently in a bad way.’
Sadly, I said, you can’t ‘give it back’ any more than a person with brown skin can ‘turn off’ how they are treated. What you can do is be aware of it, recognize it, and call it out when you see it. This is how we can start to make a difference.
I look at my son and my heart breaks as these little pieces of innocence chip away.
I look at my son and my heart breaks for the mothers who will never see their sons grow up. Mothers who wonder, each time their child leaves the house, even when they are full grown, if they will return. Because the truth is, in numbers far greater than one can imagine, they do not.