Why I Feel Guilty About Being a White Mom

Our friends at YourTango discuss the importance of taking responsibility as a white mother in a time when injustice is so prevalent.

Stocksnap | Priscilla Westra

To admit white privilege is to admit a stake, however small, in ongoing injustice. It's to see a world different than your previous perception. Acknowledging that your own group enjoys social and economic benefits of systemic racism is frightening and uncomfortable.

It leads to hard questions of conscience many of us aren't prepared to face. There is substantial anger: at oneself, at the systems of oppression, and mostly at the bearer of bad news, a convenient target of displacement.

But think on this.

I have three sons, two years between each. They are various shades of blond, various shades of pinkish-white, and will probably end up dressing in polo shirts and button-downs most of the time. Their eyes are blue and green.

Basically, I'm raising the physical embodiment of The Man, times three. The White is strong in these ones.

Clerks don't follow my sons around the store, presuming they might steal something. Their normal kid stuff — tantrums, running, shouting — are chalked up to being children, not to being non-white.

People do not assume that, with three children, I'm scheming to cheat the welfare system. When I wrap them on my back, no one thinks I'm going native or that I must be from somewhere else.

When my sons are teenagers, I will not worry about them leaving the house. I will worry that they'll crash the car, or impregnate a girl, or engage in the same stupidness endemic to teenagers everywhere.

I will not worry that the police will shoot them.

If their car breaks down, I will not worry that the people they ask for help will call the police, who will shoot them. I will not worry that people will mistake a toy pistol for a real one and gun them down in the local Walmart. In fact, if my sons so desire, they will be able to carry firearms openly, perhaps in Chipotle or Target.

They will walk together, all three, through our suburban neighborhood. People will think, "Look at those kids out for a walk." They will not think, "Look at those punks casing the joint."

People will assume they are intelligent. No one will say they are "well-spoken" when they break out SAT words. Women will not cross the street when they see them, nor will they clutch their purses tighter.

My sons will never be mistaken for stealing their own cars or entering their own houses. No one will stop and frisk my boys because they look suspicious. My boys can grow their hair long, and no one will assume it's a political statement.

My boys will carry a burden of privilege with them always. They will be golden boys, inoculated by a lack of melanin and all its social trapping against the problems faced by Black America.

For a mother, white privilege means your heart doesn't hit your throat when your kids walk out the door. It means you don't worry that the cops will shoot your sons.

It carries another burden instead. White privilege means that if you don't school your sons about it — if you don't insist on its reality and call out oppression — your sons may become something terrifying.

Your sons may become the shooters.

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