*Photo Source: Unknown
Sunday morning our pastor read the names of last week’s shooting
victims, law enforcement and civilian, aloud during morning prayers. The brick-walled room was quiet, sunlight
streamed in through wide windows and I wondered what my oldest kids, seated at a table
with us, would think about those names.
Our older kids, just eight and ten, home for the entirety of summer vacation, are ensconced in a semi-rural white bubble.
John and I get most of our news online and, without the evening news
hour on TV, our kids are sheltered from much of the world’s news save for occasions
where we decide to intentionally break the bubble.
We did so with the church shooting in South Carolina last summer, explaining about the shooting and its racist motivations over dinner. Then we made a quilt square to send to a
group in the south who were piecing a quilt for those impacted by the
crime. Still, we haven’t talked with our kids about the events of last week. And they remained oblivious to our pastor’s prayer, wrapped up in seeing their Sunday morning friends, doodling and folding paper airplanes.
They didn’t ask and I didn’t tell.
Monday morning I thought about it again as I worked to add yet another layer of paint to the dark wood paneling in our laundry room. Would we tell the kids and when and how would we navigate the complexity of the
discussions? A new thought flickered in my mind like a light bulb – this is white privilege. I get to choose when and where and if I talk with my kids about the complexities of racism because I believe it doesn’t impact them and, more importantly, not telling them doesn’t put them at risk.
There are mothers across America who don’t have that
choice. To not talk about these deaths
with their sons and daughters is to expose them to risk. Information that feels optional for my kids
is essential for theirs. The idea that I don’t have to address these issues and they do is a privilege born of the color of my skin, a burden born of the color of theirs.
Later in the morning I read these posts by Lisha Epperson at Give Me Grace and Regina Stoltzfus at The Mennonite, both mothers to teenage boys wrestling with similar questions of when and where and how to talk about racism, but entering into the discussions with wisdom, bravery and fear because they cannot afford not to.
I am a white woman
raising three white sons along a stretch of road where pickup trucks of all
shapes and sizes drive by with confederate flags proudly flying from the bed of
the truck. These aren’t unobtrusive confederate
flag stickers pasted to a windshield, but a large 3×5 foot banners flying
on a pole, statement sized flags. I am a white woman who believes placing a #Blacklivesmatter sign in our yard would have real repercussions, so I don’t.
I want to preserve that bubble, to keep my kids safe. But I understand now that doing so only keeps us
all at risk. No bubble that includes some and excludes others by reason of the
color of their skin can ever be truly safe for anyone. What appeared optional – talking with my kids about the
realities of racism in our country – is, I now see, essential. I cannot afford to say nothing.
I wrote this post on Monday and have sat with it since largely because I am afraid to say something wrong. I now realize this hesitancy and the desire to “get it right” and not expose myself to possible ridicule or argument is another layer of privilege.
I turned on the evening news while driving home with the kids Tuesday night. They were wiped out from a day of swimming and sat quietly listening. We listened for five minutes before the questions began. I turned off the news and we cleared up confusion and I turned it back on again. Eventually, as we pulled in the driveway, my oldest son caught wind of the shootings in Dallas.
“What are they talking about?” he asked. “Was that another shooting?”
I asked him to wait while the twins went inside. Standing in the driveway, I told him quietly about the events of the past week and he filed it away like kids his age do.
The conversation begins, it continues and we have no choice but to enter in for the sake of all our children.
Please do take a moment to read the posts I’ve linked to above, both women share important perspectives. Thank you.