I’m a White mom raising a strong, smart and beautiful Black daughter. We look different. I think about this all the time—that she is the intersection of much different variables than me. That she will be viewed differently than me. That she may be treated differently than me. That her life experiences could be so different from mine.
This issue rallies around my head with frequency, especially considering the unfair treatment and unjust deaths that fill the news stream and our daily lives. Ahmaud. Breonna. Trayvon. Eric. Mike. Emmett. So many more.
I think about the world she is growing up in, the world she will soon be keenly aware of, and what that means for my job as her mom—her White mom.
I go jogging every day. As a woman, there may have been a small handful of evening jogs in large cities where I’ve brought mace and looked a little bit over my shoulder at figures walking by, but I’ve never feared for my life. I’ve never worried that I would be shot getting exercise in my own neighborhood. I realize that is one of my privileges, and it is a great one. One I think about all the time—that not everyone is afforded that simple privilege, to be comfortable in their own neighborhood. In their own backyard. Isn’t that a sad statement?
And I wonder and worry about my daughter. Will she have that same feeling of safety, as a woman of color? Will she feel comfortable in her own neighborhood? Will her husband? Will her sons and daughters?
I wonder and worry about my friends and colleagues of color, those in my circle whom I love dearly. They don’t have the same privilege that I have to be comfortable jogging in their own neighborhoods.
We Must Step Up and Use Our Privilege for Good
I remember a playground situation I witnessed on recess duty as a fourth grade teacher. One of my students was struggling to get a basketball down, as it was wedged between the backboard and the rusty old rim. He’d jump up to the kid-height modified hoop, but was still shy by about two feet. Try and try again, he just couldn’t reach. He began to get frustrated as I walked over to help.
But I soon stopped in my tracks. Another student, who was sitting in a chair reading in the shade of a tree, witnessed the struggle. She stood up, then dragged the chair over, placing it underneath the hoop and the hovering basketball. She looked at the student who was trying to get the ball, offered her hand to help him step onto the chair, and then assisted him in freeing the basketball. Success! She had given the student who was struggling a tool that helped him instead of just sitting in the shade and minding her own business.
This is but a small example of what we, as White people, should be doing now. We should be using our privilege to stand beside our friends, shouting from the mountaintops because we owe it to ourselves and our kids to do better. We can’t just sit in the shade and pretend we don’t see what is happening. And we can’t pretend that we can begin to understand what it means to be not-White.
- We need to use our privilege to speak up and speak loudly. We must do more than nod our heads, uttering the obligatory “isn’t that a shame” or simply filming unjust acts while watching in complacent duplicity.
- We need to use our privilege to have hard conversations with other White people who aren’t seeing the urgency, or those who are blind to the implicit and explicit racism that runs rampant in our country. We can’t just hide those people (and high school friends and relatives) from our social media feeds. We must engage.
- We need to use our privilege as a tool to encourage school systems to rethink curriculum, systemic racism and how we are educating the next generation of children. We can’t just shy away from those conversations, and yes, they will be hard. We may feel like Sisyphus pushing the boulder up the mountain to have it roll back down again, but we must be persistent with the mission and know that change requires a lot of pushback and a lot of resistance.
My daughter should never have to be afraid. My friends of color shouldn’t have to look over their shoulders, nervous while engaging in health-friendly hobbies in their own neighborhoods. It’s time to drag over the chairs that we are afforded based on the privilege that comes with our skin color and use the tools to do something big and important—not just sit and watch as others struggle. Or worse, as they continue to die.
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