On Being a White Mama to Children of Color

It is not freedom or privilege to live in fear.

It is a confusing and complex experience to be the white mama of two mixed black and white young adult children in our country today. I am trying to figure out where I fit in in this culture war over skin color when I am white *and* I spent 23 years of my life nurturing two children of color with my blood, sweat, and tears. I would never ever say “not all white people,” that is not my stance. I am awake to and actively learning more about the atrocities of institutionalized racism. I will not diminish the realities of being a person of color in this country. I know we need to tear the whole system apart and build a new system where oppressed and marginalized people no longer exist. I know the pendulum needs to swing to voices of color. As I listened to Jesse Williams’ BET awards speech I thought “Hell Yes” with every line. When my daughter posted this morning that Beyonce’s Freedom performance gave her life, I thought “Yes, thank you for the powerful voices and stories of black women silenced for too long.” I am immensely grateful for these disruptive and brave black voices speaking on behalf of my babies and the community they are connected to by blood and history.

I just don’t know the best way to use my own voice as the white mama of children of color, whom I am connected to by blood and history. I desire to be respectful, and I desire the respectful recognition that myself and many other white mamas live in the same fear as mothers of color (there are people on both sides of the war who see our mixed children as an abomination), just as I am the mother of two queer children and fear for their lives for that reason, too (though I am also queer so that’s a whole other situation). I haven’t been able to write about it yet because Orlando frightened me so deeply, in a way I have not experienced before. I am scared for my brown skinned queer babies. My whiteness will not protect them. And I cannot, nor would I try to hide the target that queerness puts on their back. I taught them to wear their identities with pride.

I don’t believe respectful silence is the way because there are many mamas out there like me – black, white, and every other color – probably also wondering where we fit when we have already embraced the “other” by bringing them into our own body and giving them life. There really is no deeper embrace than that. Nor any more apparent fact against the concept of otherness. The fact that anyone still believes there is an “other” in 2016 boggles my mind. Whether you’re into science or religion (the core teachings, not the modern interpretations), both say we are the same more than we are different. There is no other. And yet our culture operates under the assumption of an other – that woman is other than man, black is other than white, queer is other than straight – and may kill my children based on this false assumption.

So I start using my voice here and now, perhaps imperfectly, by saying I am a both white woman and an angry, scared mama who is on the battlefield fighting for racial justice. I am a fierce ally for people of color, fighting on the side all of the mamas of children of color who know our culture has to do better by our babies. It is not freedom or privilege to live in fear, not for our children, and not for our mama hearts that all bleed red when they are shattered with the loss of a child.

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