When will White people see our children like they see their own children? Black mothers have asked this question since Africans were brought to America and enslaved. What makes my Black son different from your White son? He is an intelligent 8th grader in advanced placement courses, a talented percussionist in his middle school band and a four-sport athlete. Yet, is his life less precious? His young life hangs in the balance because you see him as criminal, violent and less than human. I think he is a gift from God that deserves to be protected and nurtured. I am afraid for my son’s life. I am fearful that I will not have the opportunity to see him graduate from high school or college, start his career, buy his first house, find love, or have children of his own. Fear can be a powerful force…Black families witness the fear in White people’s eyes when they look at our children. However, my fear empowers me. Empowers me to talk about the very thing Americans want to ignore. Racism.
Racism in this country is very complex. It is not racist acts, but institutionalized racism that destroys this nation. Institutionalized racism is a system of advantage that benefits White people (Marx, 2006; Tatum, 1999). It is so embedded in the fabric of this country that it is like the air we ALL breathe. All Americans suffer because as a nation we cannot or will not address the issues of institutionalized racism that carries out the destruction of masses of young Black men. Educational inequity, the mass incarceration of Black and Brown people and mass killings of young Black men all stem from institutionalized racism. We don’t want to believe that racism exists, but for the sake of our sons’ survival we must begin to grapple with and undo racism. Everyone has a part to play in undoing racism: 1.) We cannot pretend there are simple answers to this complex problem. 2.) Everyone has to be a part of the solution otherwise you are a part of the problem. 3.) One person cannot do everything but everyone can do something. In my undergraduate class, which consists of predominately White, female pre-service teachers I have often said…each one teach one. It simply means we all have power. We have the power to influence, to change, to improve, to dismantle institutionalized racism…if we use our powers for good.
How will you use your power?
My prayers go out to the family of Michael Brown the latest death of an unarmed Black teenager.