Thursday, October 16, 2014

To My White Boys

This is an awkward letter to write. And one I hope is totally out of date and unnecessary by the time you read it. But it needs to be said. You are white. You are male. And that makes life easier for you.

Many want to say we live in a post racial world. But we don’t. You may not see color. I hope you don’t. We have tried to encourage an appreciation of different cultures in our family. We have tried to expose you to a diverse world. But the truth is you don’t have to see color in others because of your whiteness. That is the privilege you enjoy.

I do not worry when I send you out into the world that you might not come home. When I talk to you about what to do if you are stopped by a police officer or even arrested, I have told you to be respectful but I don’t worry that any move you make, any word you speak might create enough fear in the officer to cause them to feel a need to protect themselves and shoot you.

I watch you walk out the door in your hoodies and baggy clothes, I tell you to speak up. Advocate for yourself. Be you. This is my privilege as a white mother. But it is not the case for black moms across America.

Read this - listen to these moms tell their stories. 
“The Rev. Traci Blackmon is pastor of Christ the King United Church of Christ in Florissant. She has a daughter and two sons…. ‘Every policeman is not bad,” she added. “But if it is your child, you can’t take that risk. You have to have ‘the talk,’ because they have to stay alive.’”
Credit Provided by Missouri History Museum

I also wish that we lived in a post misogyny world, a world where what I can do is not determined by my vagina. Where I didn’t have to worry about what time my train will arrive back at the station and is that too late to walk by myself across a parking lot. Where I didn’t have to wait to see whether my gender interfered with someone wanting to hear what I had to say.

But we don’t.

You know me. You know I’m strong. I am smart and thoughtful and well informed. I speak my mind. I have gifts to share with the world and yet there are places, even within the church, where I am disqualified simply because of my being a woman.

You my sons, my white boys, will walk into a room and belong there simply because you want to be there. You will speak and people will give your words more weight at first because of your white privilege. Unless of course you say something stupid. Or unkind. Or demeaning of others. But that would be based on your actions, your actual words, and not on your ethnicity or gender.

There are programs in place to encourage diversity, both racial and gender, in schools, careers, etc. And you may lose a spot, not be given an opportunity, because of this. Some will say it’s not fair. But the truth is every day life isn’t fair.

You are white boys.

And that opens doors, gains respect, and protects you in ways you will never understand.

Listen to those not like you. Hear their stories. Take in the mistreatment, the disrespect, the limitations, the otherness.

And then use that white privilege to change things. Even if, and most likely it will mean, you have to give up your privilege.

Lay down your rights and raise up those whose voices should be heard but are not yet.

Because the world you could create will be so much better.

I love you.

Your White Mother


  1. Jen, this is so powerful. I am so proud of you to get out there and write about what others may think, but are afraid to talk about. It is so true, children who are born into privilege or a certain race/gender need to understand that they got there by chance and to learn to understand that the world can be unfair. It if a gift for them to learn how to see through the eyes of others. If they can value what they have, not take life for granted and learn to the empathetic they can make change happen, one person at a time. Thank you for this thought provoking post. Your boys are so blessed to call you Mom. XO