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We're All Michael Brown's Mother

Lesley McSpadden, mother to slain young man, Michael Brown
Photograph by Getty Images

Far away from Ferguson, Missouri it's the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and I'm looking forward to nothing more than slowing down the crazy day-to-day and enjoying some real quality time with my husband and our two kids. I'm so lucky. I'm lucky my children and husband are alive, well, and white.

I'm lucky that my neighborhood won't be touched by the protests that have the possibility of turning violent. I'm lucky that when I call the police, it would never occur to me that it could be the last thing I do. And I'm even luckier that if a nightmare did come to pass, and someone in my family was shot in cold blood by an officer of the law, I know someone would be made to pay. Or, at the very least, be made to stand trial.

Michael Brown's parents are so very out of luck.

Trayvon Martin's parents were also out of luck. I'm guessing Tamir Rice's family is not feeling very lucky right now, either. The parents of young black boys killed by police at a rate that is 21 times greater than young white men, are surely out of luck. And the people of Ferguson, Missouri and supporters of justice around the country are letting it be known that it's time to give young black men a fighting chance. Moms of America need to join those voices, because we have the most to lose.

It's beyond time to shine a light on this gross inequity of justice and punishment. Mothers of black children need all of us to stand up for their families. No mother should have to hold her breath as her child steps outside to go to the corner store, until he returns home in one piece. And we should all be yelling for justice at the top of our lungs until we are all equally protected under the law, and in our communities. It's time to yell. It's time to be heard. It's time to fight against institutional racism and the deadly effect it has on our fellow Americans.

Where does all of that frustration, rage and pain go after years of suffering from disproportionate rates of gun deaths, incarceration, and just your garden variety discrimination?

I can understand why the town of Ferguson blew up last night, and I can even understand how some people are so hopeless, so angry, and so frustrated that they turn these powerful and painful feelings inward to their own neighbors. You're right that store owners in Ferguson and the surrounding areas do not deserve to have their businesses destroyed and burned to the ground. But where does all of that frustration, rage and pain go after years of suffering from disproportionate rates of gun deaths, incarceration, and just your garden variety discrimination? It has to go somewhere, and as mothers, we should understand this even if we don't condone.

Michael Brown's family has already spoken out in support of non violent reactions, and is supporting positive action to make a change in the way the police approach every community member. And the fact is most people who are meeting in the streets of St. Louis, New York, Los Angeles and far beyond are simply protesting a miscarriage of justice. They are justified in their protests; they are building up and not tearing down, and they should be heard.

This fight is for all of us, not only black families, and poor families, and families who have been directly effected by institutionalized racism and gun violence. Because we all could be touched by gun violence at any time. You only have to look as far as the last school shooting to know that no one is safe in America. Not even 1st graders. The week after the horrific massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary my daughter's school was cancelled due to a bomb threat. Make no mistake, our kids are not safe. But my kids are safer—bomb threats and all—than their counterparts with a different racial background. With a black or brown racial background.

And if it had been my child gunned down in the street, you bet I'd be rioting. I'd tear down anything and everything in front of me and I'd burn this world to the ground. Wouldn't you?

Photographed above: Lesley McSpadden, mother to slain young man, Michael Brown

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