Be the change, reflection

The Things I Will Never Have to Tell My Son

I didn’t think I would ever write this post, simply because I never thought there were things I wouldn’t have to say to my son simply because he is white.  Yet in the aftermath of the Trayvon Martin case and verdict, I now stare full face at the white privilege I have always known was present in this country, yet never fully understood.  As I read articles with African American parents sharing the conversations they have had with their sons since the verdict, I understand better what it means to be a white parent, at least here in Wisconsin, and the things that I will never have to say.

I will never have to tell my son that he shouldn’t wear a hoodie in case someone thinks it makes him look suspicious.

I will never have to tell my son that he should always keep his hands in view at all times so that people can see his intentions loud and clear.

I will never have to tell him to pull up his pants if he wants a chance at a job.

I will never have to tell him to not go through unknown neighborhoods because people will assume he doesn’t belong there.

I will never have to tell my son to not confront someone if they are following him.

I will never have to tell my son to not try to act tough as he walks around in case someone thinks he is trying to provoke a fight.

I will never have to tell my son to be humble and respectful even if someone is threatening him.

I will never have to tell my son that simply his presence can be viewed as a threat to those around him, particularly if he looks anything like his dad.

My son will be assumed to belong most places he goes.  My son will be assumed to have an education, to be intelligent, to be articulate simply because of his skin color.

Most people will assume he is a kind, caring child before they see his actions simply because of his skin color.

Most people will give him a chance, assume he is just another kid, assume he is up to good things and not something bad.

All because of his skin color.

7 thoughts on “The Things I Will Never Have to Tell My Son”

  1. I have just discovered your blog and have been busy the last couple of days reading old posts to catch myself up. I didn't notice today's blog until just now, and I am, again, terrible impressed by your honesty. Thank you for letting us see your vulnerability, and for being courageous enough to see from another point of view. It gives me hope that one day my children will never have to have these conversations with their own, except as a history lesson.

  2. I agree, but I also think clothing and appearance play a role in this as well. I've seen plenty of white kids that look like thugs based on their dress. Unfortunately, white privilege still exists and I doubt it's going to change soon.

  3. At first I thought I would read this and want to repost as I agree “white privilege” still exists and I agree many people still judge others and make assumptions by the color of someone’s skin. The situation of his death was tragic and never should have happened, but I think the big picture is being missed. I disagree with the first 7 statements that you should not talk to your son about those things just because he is White. We are being naive and doing young men of any color a disservice if we only focus on skin color . Any child regardless of skin color or socioeconomic status should be told and taught those first 7 things. People are judged by their clothes/overall appearance/attitude as well as skin color. Yes I do believe that some White children may be given the “benefit of the doubt” but think about it ” being a white boy in a hoodie with his hands in his pockets in an unknown neighborhood acting tough and confronting someone who may be following him…dress appropriately for a job interview…that people will judge your character by the way you act and dress….”.are these really things you want to NOT tell you son to do? Don’t read this wrong, I am not saying a young man doing these things brings cause for something bad to happen to him, but we can not control the actions of others in this unsafe world and there are life lessons good to teach any child.

    1. I agree with what you are saying that, of course, I would still have some of these conversations with my son, however, I think the way and the why of these conversations are different for me than they are for many others. For me, these conversations would happen more in a “This is how we are supposed to act” way rather than a “There could be severe consequences if you don’t follow this advice” way. Thank you so much for making me think more about this.

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