Another shooting of another black man. The names and images scroll across my news feed in what has become a much too frequent occurrence. I feel anger, I feel horrified, I feel sadness, I feel fear, but deep down inside I also feel relief. Relief that my boys have inherited most of my Irish genes instead of their father’s African-American ones. As much as I try to instill in them a sense of pride in both their heritages, at times like these I am ashamed to admit that it gives me some security to know that often people do not realize they are bi-racial.
My heart breaks for the mothers who have to worry about their children’s safety just because of the color of their skin. Who have to teach them at an early age how to respond to a police officer’s questions. Because they can be stopped at any time simply because of the way they are dressed or because they are in a neighborhood where they do not appear to belong. As much as we don’t want to admit it, black men are stereotyped. Call it racial profiling, call it whatever you want, but I want my kids to be able to call me when they get home, and white children have a much better chance of doing that than black ones do.
How do I encourage my children to embrace their ethnicity knowing it could end up causing them harm? Especially when they have the ability to “choose”? It’s easy because in reality there is no choice to be made. They are not defined by their backgrounds any more than I am defined by my hair color. They are each unique individuals who will have to experience what life has in store for them. They cannot put on the “white” suit when it’s convenient and then change into the “black” suit when it’s safe. What they can do is recognize that right now, there are still people and places that prefer one style of suit over another. Having both kinds, they are uniquely positioned to help change that.
So when another shooting of another black man happens – and sadly we know it will – I will not breathe a sigh of relief that it’s not my child. I will instead be filled with outrage that it was SOMEBODY’S child and that one day it could be mine, or my neighbors, or maybe even yours. This is not a black or a white issue. This is a human issue. And until everyone treats it as such it will continue to remain one.