As I am challenged to keep improving and become a better parent to my mixed-race son, I’ve had to face the death of a very, very large part of my parenting: the White Parent. Let me explain:
All parents have worries and concerns about sending their children out into the world. White Parents don’t have to worry about their child being bullied, hurt, or killed because of their skin color.
All parents want their children to succeed in school. White Parents don’t have to worry about their child being passed over for opportunities or being labeled a “troublemaker” because of implicit racial bias.
All parents want their child to get a great job. White Parents don’t have to worry about their child being passed over for a great job opportunity or being paid substantially lower because of implicit racial bias.
All parents want their children to be safe. White Parents don’t have to worry about their child being killed by police at an alarming rate.
These are not things I worried about growing up and going through school. And as far as I know my parents didn’t worry about them either. The advice given to me was standard for white suburban America: “Work hard and you can achieve anything”; “Stay out of trouble and you’ll be fine”. And while my experiences (and those of my family) have proven that advice sound, I know enough now to worry that the same advice will not hold true for my son.
I must admit I was warned. Family members of mine expressed concern and urged me not to marry interracially because they didn’t want to see me go through hardships or have a child of mine (and theirs) endure them as well. But the heart wants what it wants, and to reject love out of fear of hardship is poor advice at best. So here I am, a white father but no longer a White Parent. Worrying and just shaking my head are not the examples I wish to set for my son.
What’s important is that my child knows not only that his life matters to me, but that the lives of children and adults like him matter to me as well. That I am not content to turn a blind eye to injustice and “hope” that he is spared because sometimes he can “pass as white”. That I, in the group of the oppressor, will use my advantages to systematically dismantle the barriers of inequality for him and for everyone like him. That I will defend him and reaffirm his and his mother’s worth even when my family members do not. That I will not accept “that’s just the way he/she is” as an excuse for people not doing the work to change. That Black Lives Matter to me, to his mother, and to anyone else we choose to accept as family and friends.
The path forward for my son will be neither straight nor easy. But at least he will know I am there with him in much different ways than I had previously imagined. Onward and upward.