What kind of mother are you? There are just two kinds.
There are the mothers who have “the talk” when their sons reach adolescence. And there are the mothers who don’t have to.
I’m not talking about the awkward, sweat inducing one that helps to prevent things like pregnant girlfriends and painful urination… though that is also an important talk to have with all of our children.
It’s the other talk. The one about what to do if a police offer pulls you over. About being extra polite to shopkeepers. It’s the talk about the White women in suburbia who will cross to the other side of the street or quickly lock their car doors when they see a Black male walking toward them. It’s the ‘Yes, Sir….Yes, Ma’am” talk about fear and suspicion based solely upon a son’s skin color, demeanor, and choice of outer garment. This talk is an insurance policy with a terrifying premium.
The mothers raising the sons who get followed or in many cases, avoided based upon stereotypes have a daunting task. How do you give birth to a child, raise him to adulthood and try to teach him that if he is polite, gets good grades, stays out of trouble, that the world will reward his efforts by not immediately assuming that he is a menace to society when the statistics say otherwise? Do you have this talk once a week? Once a year? Once an hour? When does such a mother know that this message was heard?
Is the only time she knows it wasn’t is when it is too late?
I cannot possibly grasp the enormity of this task because I am not the mother of a son who is feared by people who don’t know him.
I can be a wife and mother and sister and friend….a teacher and writer and shopper…I can be goofy or unreasonable or bitchy or really, anything I choose to be…. on any given day…or in the middle of the night…and be reasonably certain that strangers will not assume I am behaving that way because I am a middle aged White woman. In fact, I never think about being White unless I am with my children. Because they are not. White. And while the stereotypes about Asians are generally less physically dangerous for my babies, the damage caused still takes its toll. It is demeaning and marginalizing. It condenses everything about them down to the one thing they cannot control.
I’m able to move freely through Life.
I try hard to remember this, and pray for the mothers who do not share in this privilege. One I did not do a thing to earn.
The ones who will bury sons other mothers crossed the street to avoid.