The news of no indictment in Ferguson arrived just as my family was sitting down to a late dinner on a snowy Wisconsin evening. I’ve spent the past two hours trying to come up with something profound or inspiring or “right” to say, because saying nothing doesn’t feel right either.
At one point I even sat down to type out my thoughts but deleted it, every word felt inadequate. I kept picturing Michael Brown’s parents. Usually so good with words, I was empty tonight. So very sad, angry, and empty.
But there were plates to clear and a sink to fill with suds and rooms to straighten and kids to round up, brush and put to bed. Many times as a parent you don’t get to feel your feels when you are having them, as the business of children demands everything else of you.
It was as I put my son to bed that I understood what needed to be said. I looked at my beautiful son as he lay snuggled under his blankets, my hand pressed between his two small hands. He is six, He is white, He is still at an age of innocence. He is still mine to mold and shape before more of the outside world comes in to influence.
So I pictured Michael Brown’s parents as I kissed my little white boy’s hands and made a promise to continue to teach him to use those hands for good. And I pictured Michael Brown’s parents as I kissed my little white boy’s forehead and made a promise to continue to teach him to use his mind to seek justice and equality. And I pictured Michael Brown’s parents as I kissed my little white boy’s face and made a promise to continue to teach him to see your brown skin boy as an equal, as a brother. As no less than he.
And I placed my hand on my son’s heart and whispered to him what I do every night. “I love you. You are a good and smart boy and I am proud of you. Dream good dreams, be kind and brave as you do.”
The thing about parenting is that we all have the same dreams for our babies. And yet, the thing about parenting is that our experiences can be so vastly different from one another.
For all the families who raise and love brown skinned boys who have worries and concerns that I will never know with my white son, I don’t have words adequate for tonight. I can only promise to raise my children to see injustice and inequality as an offense to all people and to see the value in changing it.
I pray for peace. I understand your rage. Black Lives Matter.
This was written in response to my post by a friend of mine, a mother of a little brown boy, and they had me in tears…..
“As I kiss the sweet curls of my brown skinned child I find comfort in the mothers like you who are teaching their children to be different, to be more. I will teach my son to be different, to be more, and to find your sons in a crowd because they will be strong hearted friends and allies.”
Resources for talking to your children about Ferguson, racial profiling, officer involved shootings, law and order, and racial equality:
1. Even if you are not a teacher, check out the hashtag #FergusonSyllabus on twitter.
2. Understanding the grand jury ruling on Michael Brown’s death from PBS gives the facts/timeline of events, links to news stories, and educational videos promoting nonviolent reactions to racial inequality.
3. The Death of Michael Brown: Teaching About Ferguson from the Learning Network of the New York Times offers a roundup of thoughtful ideas (especially excellent/appropriate to explore with tweens/teens).
4. For younger children, this is an age-appropriate guide for letting conversation happen from the Psychological Network.