White privilege is constantly on my mind after the election. I am more aware of my race on a daily basis than ever before. Because it is my privilege as a white woman, to not have to think about my race as I navigate the world. I do not have to think about my whiteness when I walk out of the door to drive to work. But I have been, more and more. For instance, I can pull over my car on the side of the road to take a photo of the sunset I get to see each morning on the way to work. And I don’t think much about others questioning my actions. I assume I’m safe for the most part, standing on the side of a highway. This assumption is an extreme privilege.
As I process the election and prepare for my spring courses, I’ve been reading new essays and re-reading Ta-Nehisi Coates. Because I have also found out I am having a son, a white son, and he will have the most supreme privilege that society grants humans. And I keep thinking how differently the mother of a black son must feel. I cannot fully understand it, but it is a different “galaxy,” as Coates explains it.
My son will live in a reality in which “there are little white boys with full collections of football cards, and their only want was a popular girlfriend and their only worry was poison oak” (Coates).
I won’t worry about what he’s wearing and how it will be perceived by the world, because white boys aren’t profiled for wearing polo shirts and Sperry shoes. There are laws of the “other” that he will never have to learn, which are “essential to the security” of black boys’ bodies.
There is a control over his body that he will feel that even I don’t feel. As a woman, I think about what I wear in certain situations, what men might take as an invitation. I think about the path I walk to my car and how to avoid what seems like a threat to my body.
But as a white mother, I cannot fully understand the fear of a black mother:
“Added to the natural fears of every parent…is this other knowledge of how institutional racism works in our country…the condition of black life is one of mourning” (Claudia Rankine).
And as Rankine goes on to explain, while I can temporarily attempt to feel this suffering, I cannot “replicate that daily strain of knowing that as a black person you can be killed for simply being black.”
And so I am beginning to think about and process how I will raise a son aware of his privilege, and how I will model for him that awareness and kindness are not enough, but we must speak up and act too.