Fact: we are two white mothers, raising two white boys. And although many would be right to say, don't make this about you, we also know it is incumbent upon us to reflect on how we show up in this moment. We are raising our boys in a country that awards us and them immense privileges at the expense of Black bodies, livelihoods, and lives. We will never understand what it is like to be Black or raise Black children, especially Black boys.
And still, we are mothers and so much of motherhood is universal. That is why, upon hearing that one of George Floyd’s last words was “mama,” it shattered our hearts. And looking at the widely circulated photo of George Floyd as a baby in his mother’s arms, it is nearly impossible not to think of the nights in recent months we have both spent holding our own young boys, rocking them to sleep and imagining the futures they might have.
Undoubtedly, George Floyd’s mother had these same tender moments with her son. What did she think about as she watched him sleep? What did she imagine and hope for her precious child? More likely than not, we had similar dreams for our children’s futures - to be loved, to be safe, to contribute to their communities, to find joy, to be productive and engaged citizens. To inherit a world that is healthy, diverse, affirming and kind.
The difference and the inexcusable reality is that those dreams for George will not be fulfilled because his life was cut tragically short, murdered at the hands of police because of the color of his skin. That is one undeniable difference between our experience of motherhood and Black motherhood. We do not lie awake at night knowing people hate our sons without ever having met them. Or fear that if they go to the corner store for some Skittles, that they won’t return. Or worry that if they cross paths with the wrong officer, their life will end. The visceral, gut-wrenching fear that all mothers can recognize out of instinct to protect their babies is exceedingly rare in our lives because we are white.
As two white mothers and former educators raising two white boys, we know the responsibility and moral obligation we carry to raise them as actively conscious, anti-racist, and not indoctrinated into anti-blackness.
We have to teach them that Black Lives Matter - and not just to know and understand, but to act. It is incumbent upon us as mothers - as parents and citizens and humans - that we are relentless in raising our sons to spend down their privilege and work to dismantle the systems of racism and oppression that plague our country.
We won’t pretend to know all the answers or fool ourselves that we know exactly how to do this. But we will wake up every day and try. We pledge to read, reflect, and educate ourselves. We will buy children’s books that celebrate diversity and teach love and acceptance. We will take them to protests and show them the power of collective action. We will lift up stories of Black excellence and power. We will have tough, honest conversations and know that no age is too young to begin. And then we will push ourselves and our sons to have those same conversations with friends, classmates, and other family members. We will keep fighting so that one day all children in our education system have the kind of access to great teachers and educational opportunities our boys will have. We will show up and do the work for ourselves and model for our sons how we want them to live and to lead.
We will make this lifelong commitment because “until the killing of black men, black mothers' sons, becomes as important to the rest of the country as the killing of a white mother's son, we who believe in freedom cannot rest until this happens.” ― Ella Baker