What’s a White Mom to Do?

I cried all the way to the library.  Then I told my kids about Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.  “Remember last summer when I said not to leave a black friend if a cop showed up or if you were all doing something and it went sideways?  Or if things started to unravel, or if any one of you did something wrong? To ask the cop if you can call us before you reach for your phone? And that we will come and support you all?”

They nodded solemnly.  When I cry it gets their undivided attention.

“Well that’s not enough.  I’m sorry that the world is not a perfect place.  But each of us by being here has the responsibility to leave our place better than we found it.  We need to figure out what we can do to heal this place.”

They blinked.

“I want us to try harder.”

How? they asked.  “Be friendly. Look people in the eye, say hi.  Let’s start there.”

My slightly atypical, rather antisocial teen bristled: But I don’t associate with ANY people, white, brown, or any race.  And I know this is true – we’ve been trying to figure that out already.

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Click this image to purchase this set or see other ceramics from Acme Humane.

“Just talk to Fred at the bus stop.  It’s just you two.  I’m not asking you to be his friend only because he’s brown, but I AM asking you to be friendly.  Just start by saying ‘hi.’  Do you ever talk?” If there’s something going on at school to talk about. “Okay, good, start by just talking.”  I know I am asking a lot of this kid, but I am asking anyway.

“And you, sister, have you noticed that the bus stop breaks into 2 groups by color when we’re there?  You have?  Talk to those brown kids, too.” But those are all boys and they’re rough and act crazy.  “Yep, I know, they’re younger than you and when they get together, they can act silly.  I’ll help you.”

I’ll help you.

Inside the library, an African American boy about 2 or 3 is being held to a very high standard by a black adult woman: “That isn’t yours.  Put that back.  Look at me. I don’t like that.”  And I wonder about how much the pressure on her has increased over the last 48 hours, the last year — or 2.  A white couple arrives with three biracial toddlers.  I wonder who is at the most risk, how the visible markers of skin color override history, behavior, rules, rights… Race matters, and being “colorblind” does not help, as Mamademics has pointed out.

We are white like salamander bellies.  It is up to US to breach this gap.  Imperfectly, perhaps, but we need to start.  Because we are outside the script that gets laid on people of color.  They cannot heal this rift alone, it is too dangerous.

We must.

We must start somewhere.

I would dearly love to hear what you are doing in your family or neighborhood to breach this gap.  Pop on over to Facebook and let me know; let’s talk.  And if you don’t know how to get started, pm me over there.  I’ll help you.  Or I’ll talk to your group, or share a reading list, or just listen.

 

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Books on race and love and making the world better

This summer we are working toward an #AntiracistEducation, and I’ve compiled a list of what we’ve read.  If you purchase your book from Amazon via my page, I get a nominal finder’s fee, at no cost to you.  And I welcome your reading suggestions!

Books on race and love and making the world a better place:

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Image from The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson. Click this image to see its Amazon description

Picture Books

A is for Activist by Innosanto Nagara

Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman

Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909 by Michelle Markel

Chicken Sunday by Patricia Polacco

Counting on Community by Innosanta Nagara

Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson

Grace for President by Kelly S. DiPucchio

Grandfather Gandhi by Arun Gandhi

Harlem’s Little Blackbird by Renee Watson and Christian Robinson

It’s Okay To Be Different by Todd Parr

Josehine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker by Patricia Hruby Powell and Christian Robinson

Librarian of Basra, The by Jeannette Winter

Mama Miti: Wangari Maathai and the Trees of Kenya by Donna Jo Napoli

Peace Begins with You by Katherine Scholes

Separate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and her Family’s Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh

Shades of People by Shelley Rotner and Sheila M. Kelly

Smoky Night by Eve Bunting

Sojourner Truth by Margo McLoone

Story of Ruby Bridges, The, by Robert Coles

The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson

The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles

Whoever You are by Mem Fox

Chapter Books

Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis

Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli

Watsons go to Birmingham by Christopher Paul Curtis

Historical Contexts/Documents

Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Philip Hoose

Young People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn, adapted by Rebecca Stefoff