The Unbearable Ease Of Raising A White Son

Last night I checked twitter and facebook. I saw post after post from friends with words like “Sick.” “Disgusted.” “So wrong.” I knew immediately that a verdict was in for George Zimmerman, and that it wasn’t what I’d hoped it would be.

And I felt terrible. But as I scrolled through and saw more – “We are all Trayvon’s mom” “Hoodies up!” – I knew that I was not feeling this verdict in the pit of my stomach like some of my friends and neighbors probably were. I have a white son, not a black one. I’m a bystander in this. I don’t have skin in the game.

There is not a doubt in my mind that if George Zimmerman had been black and Trayvon Martin white, there would have been a guilty verdict. An adult black man with a gun stalking a white kid? That is something this country would not stand for. An arrest would have been swift. Right-wing pundits would have been in a lather, calling for blood.

But that wasn’t the case, of course. And while I get to go on with my life as normal, I’m sure there are many moms of black boys who now feel like open-season has been declared on their sons, thanks to a ridiculous Florida law. And I can say how sorry I am, and I can try to feel what they’re feeling, but it will never be part of my daily life like it will be theirs.

When my son leaves the house in the morning, I worry about him. I worry about him getting hit by a car, mostly. I give him warnings about looking both ways before crossing. I worry about him getting mugged or getting into a fight at school. I have the privilege of not worrying about him being profiled and stalked and shot when he’s doing nothing wrong.

I can not imagine what my friends go through when they send their sons out into the world each day. What do they have to remind their kids? Don’t wear a hoodie. Don’t keep your hands in your pockets when you go into a store. If a cop tells you to stop, put your hands up and freeze. If you’re pulled over in a car, put your hands on the windshield and do exactly what the cops say. Don’t run. Don’t talk back. Good advice for everyone, but it doesn’t matter equally for everyone.

I have a hard time getting worked up about the jury. I have a feeling that based on the evidence and the law, their verdict was correct. And that, of course, is the crux of the problem.

The fact is, we are not all Trayvon’s mom. Some of us get to glide through life not worrying about such things. But until more white people can empathize with their black neighbors (what? You don’t have black neighbors? Well, that might be part of your problem right there…), until we can sympathize with what it must be like for those parents of blacks boys, until we come to terms with how easy we have it, until we can change laws that make it easy for these tragedies to happen, they will continue to happen.


  1. says

    Thank You so much for this. To know there are so many that think like you is a little relief after reading the numerous posts that say the complete opposite. The pain in my chest knowing my son has to face THIS world is so heavy right now, thank you

  2. says

    As the Black mom of a off tan biracial son I say thank you for this. Recognizing ones privilege and taking a stand/stance against injustice that “doesn’t impact you” or “isn’t your place/business” is hard but so necessary. Until we all stand up for all of those out there being treated different because of what they wear/the color of their skin/who they love, we will continue to have this impossible conversation.

  3. says

    its true. After the Trayvon murder (let’s call it what is), I walked through NYC and saw nothing but white hipsters in hoodies and thought instantly that they walk through life without a care, that anyone will stop them or judge they might be “bad” but a black in a hoodie is the complete opposite. Sad!!

  4. chelesa sims says

    Thank you so much for posting this. I think there needs to be more awareness on this.Some people’s views will never change when it comes to race and this is why there is so much ignorance in the world.It starts from at home people. If one person teaches their child or children not to hate and then child teaches their children and so on and so further. Can you imagine how peaceful the world would be. Iam reminded about that recent cheerios commercial with the biracial child all of the hatred and crap they said about it.Why? cant people just love how they love? Just because one apple off the tree is rotten doesnt make all of them bad.

  5. says

    It’s a frightening reality that so many of my friend’s sons are now in greater danger and my son is not. I feel guilty for that fact. Although none of it is my doing. It’s all so very wrong and in 2013 this country needs to do better on so many levels.

  6. twitter_goodgirlgonered says

    Thank you for these words. I’m a white woman, mom to a daughter, so I have no clue. I like to say I can imagine and support, and I try, but I truly will never have a real understanding. Your words are spot on.

  7. says

    I doubt this case would have made it to court were it not for the public attention it received. The more I learn about the case, the more it seems like it was nothing more than racial politics. I think the media is largely to blame for this. I also find it interesting that most pundits and commentators label Zimmerman as “white” or “white-hispanic”.

  8. Pat Stephens says

    While the whole Martin/Zimmerman tragedy is a tragedy, I have many problems with the media portrayal of Martin as a “child” with his 9, 10 and 12 year old pictures plastered everywhere, with no media coverage of the type of teen he was and WHY he was visiting his father. I have problems with the inability of Americans to accept the laws of the state of Florida – or possibly they don’t understand them. But most of all, I have major problems with the black community jumping on this particular case and making it about race, when there are innocent black children killed in Chicago every weekend..last weekend..7 deaths. The senseless murder of a young Chicago boy – age 12 – who had refused to join the gangs..children shot and killed by black on black gang violence while sleeping in their beds. The media, the “moms”, this nation, needs to focus on the reality that there have been 3 incidences of black on white violence within the last major news media apologies from Sharpton or admonishment from the whisper from the black community. I guess it’s acceptable to have blacks murder black “children” anywhere, anytime..and it’s acceptable that blacks murder whites…isn’t it a bit strange that this particular event has triggered so much sympathy for THIS “little black boy” ?

    • MrsNumbles says

      @Pat Stephens: I hate this kind of argument. Why on earth would you believe that most black people AREN’T concerned with “black-on-black” crime. We are. Do you really think we don’t care about our own? Is you world that narrow that you only believe what the evening news tells you?

      If you actually went into/studied about/researched cities like Chicago, into those neighborhoods, there are community outreach programs, after-school programs, CHURCHES that do their best to try to reach these kids before they start to feel that their peers, their government, their country doesn’t care what happens to them.

      Why do you think some black teens in major cities are in gangs? Decades of hearing from whites that they aren’t the same, that they don’t matter; that their hopes and dreams aren’t worth a counterfeit red cent. It’s eerily similar to emotional spousal abuse; if you tell someone that they’re stupid and ignorant and LESS often enough, they’ll believe it.

      Black communities are trying to help themselves; but until whites join in the fight, we won’t be heard. We’ll always just be “playing the race card.”

      SelfishMom, thank you for your words and your insight.

  9. Tina j says

    What you don’t have black neighbors? well, that might be part of your problem right there…. Are you serious with that comment?? So let me get this straight, i should move seeking black neighbors? Please explain that and will you tell your black readers they should seek white neighbors? Who does that? So I move from NY to the Carolinas and i dont know who my neighbors are, i move in and meet the neighbors and if there are not black neighbors I should move? Please enlighten me?

    • says

      @Tina j: You can’t possibly be arguing that entire neighborhoods with just one race are a good thing. If you are, I’m not going to waste my time talking to you. If you’re arguing that someone living in an all-white neighborhood shouldn’t bother to move to a neighborhood with more diversity, I’m not saying you should. I’m saying that if you can’t empathize with being black in America, it might be because you’ve surrounded yourself with your own kind, for whatever reason, and that’s contributing to your problem. And that’s your problem to solve – if you’re interested in solving it. As for black people seeking white neighbors, that’s a different subject than the one I concentrated on in my post. But if you’re equating the two, then really, you’re an idiot to think they’re analogous. Which brings us full circle to the point I was making.

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