Erin Kotecki Vest believes we owe it to every child to move the discussion on race forward.
Originally posted on The Queen of Spain Blog.
My son wears a hoodie every single day to school. He covers his head faithfully and rarely hears friends say hello as we walk inside or adults saying good morning as he tends to be lost in his own world, muffled by the hoodie around his ears.
My son would do anything for his little sister and happily get her candy. He would even question any adult questioning him for no reason–as we have taught him to stand up for himself, speak out for what is right, and question authority. He would run from strangers. He would, however, feel safe with a police officer.
My son, however, can do all of these things without fear. He is white. He ‘belongs’ in that suburb. He looks like every other white kid in the area and a ‘neighborhood watch captain’ would easily dismiss his walking down the street as a normal, every day occurrence. As would a police officer. As would the community.
As a white mother to a white son, I’ve never had to explain to him what he should and should not do when confronted by police. I’ve never had to talk with him about how the world views him or prayed he wouldn’t be next.
Yet we live in a world where people deny racial issues still exist. They do not even understand white privilege. They actively cry ‘reverse racism’ as if they are the victim. They even have the nerve to call those who fight for racial equality ‘race baiters,’ ’racers’ and have attempted to spin and twist and re-write history as if THEY have lost out because Americans owned slaves and those slaves were oppressed for generations, after which they were then oppressed under Jim Crow and then under the institutionalized racism that continues to permeate our culture today.
Yet these NON ‘of color’ victims’ have started a very dangerous trend, a very risky trend, a very uninformed and downright stupid trend that has them looking like very scared white folk, realizing their hold over the majority-and power-is slipping.
You see, as ‘one of you’ I get to hear all about it from family and friends and neighbors and others who seem to think that just because I am white I ‘understand’ what they mean when they say ‘our neighborhood is changing’ and ‘that school has too many kids who don’t speak like our kids’ or ‘you know the high school only recruited him because he can play ball.’
Then there are the comments on blogs and national media calling the NAACP racist, the United Negro College Fund racist, and those who support our President racist because we have the nerve to notice these overwhelmingly white people are angry and saying things and doing things they would NEVER do if the man occupying the oval office were caucasian.
They say all these things while innocent children, carrying candy in a suburb, are shot for walking down the street while black. As Jackie Summers writes,
“This isn’t some fresh new hell; it’s torn open old wounds most would prefer to believe have healed.
The concept that you are suspicious.
The concept that you have to justify where you are and what you’re doing.
The concept that there are people who are so afraid of you, they feel they’re protecting themselves and others, by killing you, even if you’re unarmed.
The concept that those charged with law can show up, knowing exactly what happened, and choose not to uphold it.
The concept that it requires a national outrage to incite justice.
The concept that there are those who would vociferously defend the murderer out of one corner of their mouths, and accuse the murdered from the other.
For no other reason than the color of your skin.”
Yet if you were to read a Right Wing blog today, you would think THEY were the victim or horrible racial attacks. The last I checked, white children like mine, even in hoodies, even walking in a suburb with candy, were not being shot for walking while white.
It is far from time for the white, right-wing to drop this act of victimhood in the American stories of racial inequality. It is embarrassing. It is ignorant. It is offensive.
Trayvon is not the first black child to die, he will not be the last. We owe it to every child to move the discussion on race FORWARD. Forward means NOT back to eras that have long past and have long ago put an indelible mark of hatred and evil on our nation that some on the right seem to think have been made up for, erased, or should be at the very least whitewashed, refusing to feel guilt for something they had nothing to do with. I don’t feel guilt as a white liberal, I feel anger. I feel anger that some conservatives say they see no color, claim to operate on an even playing field, and refuse to even discuss racial implications in any debate for fear they will have to be honest with themselves, our history, and the glaringly obvious fact we have NOT come as far as we would like to think.
We owe it to children of color to know the world MY children have grown up knowing. Where they don’t need to be told that they have to make allowances for other people’s racism because …’That’s part of the burden of being black. We can be defiant and dead or smart and alive.”
It is time to change the conversation, and it starts with the adults. I have no right to send my son to school tomorrow morning in his hoodie without fear, when so many other mothers will be sending their sons off wondering if they will ever come home.