Kissing Thing1 goodbye two years and one pandemic ago as we dropped him off on the corner closest to his dorm was tough but good. He was doing what kids are supposed to do. He was trimming away the apron strings.
But then, yesterday, he shredded them.
He had been back for two weeks after his classes ended and then packed up and drove back to school to an apartment he’s rented for the summer. Without any prompting from his parents who would really love to spend more time with him, he’s found work and a place to live and started building an adult life.
He submitted to a long maternal hug and some tearful kisses, promised not to drive too fast and text when he got there safe (which he forgot to do, of course). It’s what he’s supposed to be doing, and, even thought in some ways it’s the hardest day of being his mom, having the proof that he’s standing on his own two feet and happy made it the one of the best.
There are times when you keep silent, knowing that whatever you could add to the conversation would just be more noise. There are times, however, when not making noise is giving silent approval to things that make life unlivable for people around you. This has almost never a blog about politics or society. It is mostly been about family and being a mom, and that is precisely how I knew I had to make noise. It is why I could not be silent about what has been happening to other families in Georgia and Louisville and Minneapolis.
I’m white. I live in a predominantly white state. I may have family and students of color whom I love and with whom I can sympathize. As a teacher, I can make sure that a diverse set of voices are represented in my curriculum. I can try to empathize, but I know that even empathy can’t impart how it truly feels to walk a mile, let alone thousands of miles, in any of their shoes. I know that, as a middle-aged white woman my skin color is armor.
I first recognized the privilege that armor endows about 25 years ago, when, dressed in my grumpiest clothes and filthy vacation hair, I stopped at a convenience store to stock up for a road trip home. I wandered through the store, pulling items off shelves and putting them in my pockets as I browsed. The storekeeper ignored me, instead trailing one of my well-dressed but much darker traveling companions. I have seen it numerous times when being stopped for a broken taillight or blinker. The police officer watches me dig through my purse and assumes I’m looking for my license rather than a weapon. I was reminded of it again this week, watching with the world as another white woman deliberately weaponized her privilege against a birdwatcher of color in Central Park.
I have also heard my privilege when listening to mothers of children of color and realizing what we have very different conversations with our children. We all tell our children to obey the law, but I tell my kids to know their rights. I’ve heard other mothers talk about the law but also about ensuring that her child knows all things he must do, about when and where he should or should not go to earn the presumption of innocence that my sons take for granted as their birthright as citizens.
This month, I’ve also been thinking about the conversations no mother should have to have about her child. There’s the conversation that her child was executed in her own bed. There’s the conversation that her baby was gunned down while jogging. And there are the conversations about the killers who enjoy the presumption of innocence that their children never got.
So I’m making noise. I’m bearing witness. Black lives matter. Black mothers’ children matter.