"Let's Go Before Somebody Shoots Me" – Hard Words For the White Mom of a Black Son

Wogauyu marimba

He grabbed my arm, saying, “Let’s go before somebody shoots me.”

Wogauyu had just finished playing the marimba in a fun concert at the farmers market and I suggested we wander up main street before heading home.

I looked at him in surprise. “What do you mean?” I asked.

“Mom, they shoot people like me,” he said, as he rubbed one finger on the back of his other hand, “and I think that black lives matter.”

I tried to reassure my nine year-old, “Honey, nobody is going to shoot you. You are safe right here,” but even as I said it, I felt deep sadness knowing that I cannot shield him from the shift that is coming as he grows from a cute black boy to a not-as-cute black teenager.

Try as I might to truly understand racism, I come from a life of white privilege – don’t even argue with me about this, it’s simply true.

As my sons grow older, my window into their world grows larger, and what I see does not comfort me.

Last year, in the wake of an argument, a fourth-grade classmate of Ebenezer’s said, “No wonder black people go to jail.”

Where did he learn that? Television? Music? His parents? Sadly, his words speak more truth than I care to admit.

In our state of Idaho, black people are represented 4.4 times more in prison than in the general population. Nationwide, black people make up 13% of the population and 40% of the prison population. Poverty, racism, and a host of complex factors contribute to this injustice.

Wogauyu doesn’t know who he is afraid of; at nine years old, his fear is vague and unformed. He only knows that he is afraid.

He isn’t afraid of police officers. His uncle is a police officer and he loves him, in fact, he can’t wait to see him in a week when we’re on vacation. Several of our friends are police officers too.

He isn’t afraid of white people. His Dad is white, I am white, and many (thankfully, not all) of his siblings are white.

He isn’t afraid of black people. In fact, he wishes he had more people who look like him in his life.

Sadly, his beautiful brown skin makes him feel he is not safe in the world because he knows there are people who don’t value his life the way they value their own.

Today I have more questions than answers – and let’s be honest, most of us do. We white parents who adopt black children have a weighty responsibility.

We cannot say that color “doesn’t matter,” or “we don’t see it.” Race does matter and we do see it.

So how do we walk with our children in these difficult times? How do we support them in their discovery of themselves as young black men and women?

We need to listen, read, and learn, even when we’re uncomfortable or afraid. We need to find voices we respect and choose them as our mentors even if they never know who we are.

Our sons’ lives may depend on it.

Lisa

Signature L and Eby

 

This post may contain Amazon Affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.

14 Comments

  1. Lucy
    July 18, 2016

    Beautifully said. There are people who do not understand the sentiment Black Lives Matter. I hope they can learn from Wogauyu’s words and your insight.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      July 18, 2016

      Thank you, Lucy. I have so much to learn, I was afraid to even write this knowing that I will offend people on all sides, but this is a reflection of what happened two days ago and is our truth. It is where we are and how we are learning.

      Reply
  2. Pat
    July 18, 2016

    Reading this, I know I am breathing lightly, worried for the hurts that aren’t just words, but a real fear for your son. It makes me want change for his world -Significant change. I grew up in DC in the ’60s. So many things haven’t gotten better.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      July 18, 2016

      I want change for his world too, Pat. I’m afraid for him and sad that I can’t promise him that his fears aren’t real.

      Reply
  3. Joy Headrick
    July 18, 2016

    So needed. These days, I have been made more aware of the difference in races. The difference in our thinking, mainly because of how we were raised, or where. Made aware by having two adopted, wonderful, beautiful, smart black grandchildren which I love dearly. However, I understand the thoughts of your son. I think all of us realize that at any time we can become the minority, and thus exposed to racism in a personal way. This is such a struggle and I realize all need to know Jesus who died for all, no matter the color of our skin. Because our hearts are all the same color. Yes, this is a real issue and needs to be talked about. Thank you.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      July 18, 2016

      Thank you, Joy. We all have so much to learn – and some of us white folk (like my family and yours) who have been comfortable for so long now have black children and black grandchildren and we are being shaken and pushed to face things we have never really needed to face before in such a personal way. I’m glad to have Jennifer along with me on this journey.

      Reply
  4. Eric
    July 18, 2016

    Do you mind if this is shared on Facebook? It is too well stated to not be added to the conversations I see.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      July 18, 2016

      Please share it, Eric. I would be honored.

      Reply
  5. Beth
    July 18, 2016

    We lived in ID for two years and it was the only time I had someone try to stare me down because my daughter was black. Granted he was obviously a white supremacist, his tattoos and clothing gave that one away. My daughter is of mixed descent and I’m afraid she’s going to feel like she doesn’t fit in anywhere, she’ll be “too white” for some and “too black” for others. One day at a time.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      July 19, 2016

      I’m sorry to hear that, Beth. We live in a college town which adds diversity to our community and have never had an experience like that – but I know it happens. We parents are going to have so much to learn as we grow with our children and support them. I hear you – one day at a time.

      Reply
  6. Sarah
    July 18, 2016

    Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      July 19, 2016

      You are very welcome, Sarah.

      Reply
  7. Stacy
    July 19, 2016

    Thank you for sharing this. As a white mom of a black daughter, I can empathize with so many of your words here.

    Blessings to you as you navigate these weighty issues,
    ~Stacy

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      July 19, 2016

      Stacy, thank you for your encouraging words.

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

I accept the Privacy Policy