I am the white mother of a brown son. He was born in the year of Michael Brown. Eric Garner. Tamir Rice. Freddie Gray. I am afraid for his brown skin. I can’t protect him from his brown skin. Nothing I teach him will change the color of his brown skin. I love his brown skin. His brown skin is perfect.
I don’t know what it’s like to have brown skin. I don’t know what it’s like to be different. I can’t speak for him. But I’m his mother. I must speak for him. I long to protect him, shield him from the evil of the world. But I can only shield him blindly. I can’t see what’s coming. Only he can.
As a woman, I know what it feels like to be second-class. I know that anger. I use that anger as a starting point, when I try to feel what it feels like to be hated for his brown skin. More than anything, I feel fear.
I feel the obvious fear of death. I fear beatings, I fear my baby being dragged out of a car and handcuffed, kicked. I fear him hanging in a jail cell in Texas. I fear him being shot. But I fear the hidden horrors too. I fear for what he’ll say to himself in the dark, alone, at night, thinking that maybe what the racists say is true. Thinking that he hates his brown skin. Thinking that he hates himself. The world. Me.
I want to be on his side. I’m with him. But I can’t understand what it’s like to be him. My own son. I feel a million miles away, when I hold him, when I see people look at us twice, when he hears them ask, “Is he yours?” He doesn’t know yet that he doesn’t look like me.
My son and I are one being. I held him for nine months, I brought him earthside, I nourish and nurture him. We sleep side by side. We are one. But we are worlds apart. I try to see through his eyes. I try to anticipate his worries. I’ll try to intercept the hatred that will find him. I’ll try to protect him from pervasive racism, to guide him through racist institutions, to make him understand that other people don’t understand him. I’ll try to teach him that he is valuable, that his black life matters.
It won’t be enough. I won’t be enough. I can’t protect my own brown baby. I have to prepare him for a fight. He will struggle. He will be misunderstood. He will be hurt. He will not be defeated. He will fight back. He will educate, elucidate. He will love. He will love despite it all. He will love in the face of hate, love in the face of anger. I will fight fiercely alongside him and I will love him just as fiercely.
It’s the best I can do, from here.