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Why Ferguson Should Be Every Mom's Problem

Photograph by Vanessa Bell

Like most days, I tucked my little ones in bed and recited a simple wish of health and safety over their pretty heads of curly hair. As I settled into the couch, turning on the television to watch my country ablaze, with the riots in Ferguson, with hatred being spewed online, after internalizing another verdict that has ripped my heart out, I wondered if other moms feel the same way. Do you — or should you — care about what's happening in Ferguson even if you are not black or Latino?

When you're a busy mom, it's easy to gloss over tough topics and news like this. I get it; we all sometimes live in a bubble. But I still think we should all care about this issue because black (and brown) lives matter.

I'm like any other mom in America; tending to a home, passing on her values, doing her best with what she has to raise a family that flourishes in our rushed, modern day society. Except that I'm a Latina mom married to an African-American man, and my kids are black.

When Trayvon Martin was killed, and the shooter subsequently found not guilty, the reality of raising a black boy in America stunned and shocked me.

When I gave birth to my daughter, now four years old, the magnitude of motherhood overwhelmed me. When I gave birth to my son, two years later, the world of boyhood fascinated me. However, when Trayvon Martin was killed, and the shooter subsequently found not guilty, the reality of raising a black boy in America stunned and shocked me.

And now, with the death of (the also unarmed) Michael Brown and a grand jury unwilling to even indict his shooter, with images of the National Guard called in light of protesters in the streets of Ferguson — I wonder if other moms are terrified for our boys, our sons.

The fact that black male teens are 21 times more likely to be killed by police than their white counterparts shouldn't be true, but it is.

Are we seeing this? Do moms understand what the systematic devaluation of black males is doing to our society, the place where all our children are supposed to grow and thrive? Do we see how African-American and Latino families, men especially, are degraded and torn apart in media, personifying demons and predators, thereby cracking the very cement of our cultural foundation? It's the most perverse type of racism, and I wonder if many moms even see it.

I wonder if other moms, who are not so different than me, care about the racial gap in the U.S. arrest rates, and what that means for the communities in which we live. Denial is a strong ally for the windows we look through.

According to a USA Today analysis of arrest records across the United States, "at least 70 departments scattered from Connecticut to California arrested black people at a rate 10 times higher than people who are not black." The article goes on to state that those arrested usually don't even reside in the area and are typically passing through for work. If moms don't think this is a problem, perhaps they weren't watching the tension violently erupt in the face of a community where police mistrust runs rampant.

I'm a mom worried for the boys who grow up without any kind of societal affirmations that give them the message, "your life matters; our community cares about you."

I'm just a Latina mom with two beautiful, dark brown babies, raising them to love their heritage and value their unique identities. Except they're also black in America, and I wonder if that transcends all levels of humanity, inferences of equality and the assumptions that you're safe walking down the street with Skittles in your pocket, hands held up in the face of an armed police officer, or passing through the wrong neighborhood. The fact that black male teens are 21 times more likely to be killed by police than their white counterparts shouldn't be true, but it is.

All moms must care about this stuff, right? For those of us who live it day in and day out, I want to believe all moms care. I need to believe it.

With average means and a heart for equality and justice, I'm a mom worried for the boys who grow up without any kind of societal affirmations that give them the message, "your life matters; our community cares about you."

I'm a mom who values the breadth and depth of survival skills needed to become a successful black man in this country. I'm shocked to see my country resemble a war zone on the television screen. I'm a mom, and to my black son and the countless, beautiful men and boys who suffer for no reason but for the color of their skin, I see you. And I care.

If you're looking for more to read about Ferguson, Michael Brown and reactions to the grand jury, I recommend these resources:

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