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'I'm Happy I Have White Boys'—Really?

Photograph by Getty Images

Several years ago when I was just beginning my blogging career, a friend of mine offered to connect me with a woman who had quickly become an established freelance writer. I gratefully accepted and soon had a lunch date with this woman who, I hoped, would be able to offer me clear direction and pointers to success as a new writer.

We met in a small café in Los Angeles. Right away I noticed her full, dark, loose curls that hung past her shoulders. She was dressed like a mom of two young children, comfortable and easy. Her skin was white, her body was full, and her smile was wide. I was excited to learn all she had discovered in her short time writing. We spoke at length about our children, families and how writing from home seemed ideal as a new mom. She had two young boys and I had one. She seemed open and curious, and I felt a confidence in her that I didn't hold for myself.

I was listening to her every word carefully, hoping to somehow catch the wave of her ease and success. We got on the topic of race, and she shared with me that that she was happy for her boys. Because they were white, they would have it easier than others in our society. I was terribly confused by her statement. Was she trying to get a rise out of me? Was she baiting me in some way, looking for fodder for an article? I was astonished, and I didn't know what to say, so I didn't answer. Soon we finished our lunch, paid the bill and went our separate ways. We only corresponded about writing via email.

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About a year later, teenager Trayvon Martin was murdered by a neighborhood watch volunteer, and I thought of the mother who'd shared her happiness over her sons' skin color. I decided to ask her whether she would be willing to have a deeper discussion about her comment—I was hoping to explore what beliefs and practices lead to racism, and how we might begin dissolving racism within our subconscious. Her response shocked me, as she denied having made the statement. She also implied that I'd called her a racist and even engaged our mutual friend in the conversation. I felt awful and never spoke with her again.

How (can) any mother knowingly find peace in her children's safety with the knowledge that other mothers suffer endless injustices and live in fear because their skin is not white?

Recently, a grand jury in Ohio refused to indict the officers who killed Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old black boy playing with a toy gun. The sorrow that filled my heart at this news was excruciating. It's in moments like these that the words of this woman I met for lunch show up and sting me. "I'm happy I have white boys."

What is most insidious and curious to me is how any mother could knowingly find peace in her children's safety with the knowledge that other mothers suffer endless injustices and live in fear because their skin is not white. I just don't get it.

And while the woman at lunch had the balls to speak such beliefs aloud to a black mother of a black son, I'm sure that many silently agree with her. All over America, white women enjoy the security of knowing their sons are promised safe lives. They hold their position so dear that they're not willing to speak out and walk by the sides of black mothers whose children are being murdered by police who are paying no penalty. The expanse between empathy and insanity is a plain of blatant cruelty toward blacks that is simply intolerable.

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Over the last few years I have felt deep compassion for each family of the black men and boys killed by those with power, knowing that the color of my skin isn't reflective of my humanity. I know this is true for me and every other black person, including my son. I also know that white skin isn't a high blessing that makes white men superior or deserving of privilege and security.

Race is a difficult and tricky subject to tackle for me. I honestly don't think about it until some violent act occurs and innocent people are harmed. Other than that I see the contributions and impact black people make upon our culture, and I'm proud to be black. I can only hope that the divide between white and black is changing, that we can start to see ourselves not as parents of black kids or white kids but of all kids, and that as a people we can begin to celebrate and value what connects us.

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