Jewish Journal

Motherhood in Black and White

My soul is crushed each and every time I hear of the senseless murder of an innocent person at the hands of law enforcement, but the murder of Stephon Clark has left me heartbroken in a different way. Stephon was the same age as my own son and I cannot wrap my head around the way he died, so close to being home safe with his two little kids. This one hurts in a way that feels personal.

Of course they are all personal because we live in this country together, and I cried for Sandra Bland, Philando Castile, Gregory Gunn, Freddie Gray, Tamir Rice, and countless others who were murdered but those who were meant to protect them, but I can relate to the Clark family in ways that bring it into my home. Had it been my son in the same situation at Stephon, I can promise you he wouldn’t have been murdered. This is racism, plain and simple.

My son would have been offered a conversation. A chance to explain who he was and what he was doing. My son wouldn’t have 20 bullets blown into him steps from the safety of his home. It is black and white. Stephon Clark was killed because he was black, and when it comes to black people in America, we shoot first and ask questions later. It is 2018 and being black is America is very dangerous.

My son is a proud Jewish man, but if he was in a situation where anti-Semitic things were happening, he could join in the rhetoric to remain safe and get himself out. He would be able to come home because he can become what he needs to be. That is white privilege. That is a blessing afforded my son. I am able to watch him go out into the world with a level of comfort black mothers don’t have.

Ever since my son was very little I would send him off to school or out with his friends with the words, “Be safe out there and make good choices”. Those have been my parting words to him for as long as I can remember. I don’t have to tell him to keep his mouth shut, put his hands in the air, or get down on the ground without answering back. I haven’t raised my son with a fear of authority.

I worry about him 24/7 because I am his mother, and that is what mothers do, but I do not have the same constant fear that black mothers have. It is exhausting to just think about it. I would never want my kid to go outside. It would simply be too big a risk. The black and white reality is that this is about black and white. I cry with every black mother who fears the death of their beautiful children.

We have many problems in this country that need attention. Tomorrow I will march with the students of Parkland in support of changes to gun laws. I will march knowing that Black Lives Matter. I will march because when we unite our voices we can make change. We have to do better. We cannot think we are the greatest country in the world when this keeps happening. Wake up and start keeping the faith.