I never had white women friends before. I grew up not trusting them. When I tried to have a few in elementary school, I found they let me down. I’d be at their house playing one day, and the next day they wouldn’t say hi to me on the street — especially if they were with other white kids. I felt like I was the convenient kid to play with when no one else was looking. So, as a defense mechanism, I left you alone.
Oh, there were casual relationships in high school, sports mates, etc. But I wouldn’t call it friendship. And that distance lasted all the way through my adult life into my early 30s — when I met a few white women who defied my perception. They were different; they had biracial children. We became friends.
When I moved to Jersey City, I met a Black mom in Lincoln Park. She had two kids and was married to an African man, like me. But what should have been my first budding friendship with another mom in the area was over as quickly as it began; she was moving to another city that very same weekend. But she didn’t leave me high and dry: She gifted me with you, her mom crew. She introduced me to one of you moms right there in the park, and she spoke about how helpful and resourceful you all were. Any mom in a new area knows that there’s nothing like a crew of mom friends, white or Black, so I gladly joined in. That was about six years ago.
Since then, I’ve sat with you moms at multiple parks. We’ve celebrated birthdays, Christmas, New Year’s, participated in Easter egg hunts, trick-or-treating, and I’ve spoken at your most prized local school. I even rent an apartment from one of you. And when our current president was elected, I watched you participate in marches and share information. I went to one of your houses post-election and we, along with our kids, wrote postcards to the White House, trying to get our voices heard. (Yes, a bit naive in retrospect, but it was something.)
But even then, I saw how we were different, you and I. As we wrote our postcards, you spoke of issues like abortion rights and equal pay — but my biggest fear was racism. I didn’t want to go back to my own childhood, during which I was regularly called “n*gger” by teenage white kids. I didn’t want to fear for my kids’ or for my own safety. But when I tried to bring this up with you? I was ignored. Brushed over. No one wanted to talk about the big R.
I can read a room, so I moved on. But I saw.
Since then, I’ve seen you go from vocal about what’s happening in this country to tucked right back into your cozy white corners. Maybe you didn’t think it would be this hard, or last this long. I also know that the things that impact me and my Black family don’t impact you. But I thought that, as mothers, you would be different. I thought that you were teaching your kids that all people are created equal — that we all deserve the same opportunities. Every year, I see Martin Luther King and his beliefs get more and more amplified in your schools…and yet. We are facing the same issues to an even greater degree today — and it’s met with your silence.
I haven’t even seen adequate support for the white women in this group with Black husbands and biracial kids. I’ve seen them write posts that barely get a comment. The irony is that political analyst Van Jones caught a lot of flack the other day for saying that it’s not the conservative white women we need to worry about: It’s the Hilary-supporting “liberals.” The Amy Coopers, walking their dogs in Central Park, the women who “don’t see race” and support Black charities but will weaponize their whiteness at the drop of a hat.
I listened as you talked about not wanting to “go there” with your racist family members during the lead-up to the Trump election and afterwards. Your unwillingness to “go there” says everything about where you really stand — because silence is complicit. I wish I had the luxury to “not go there.” For awhile, I didn’t; I left you in your white corners, and I tucked back into my Black corner, justified in the fact that I had been right about white women all along: Your friendship with me is convenient, and it serves you as long as no one else is looking. But I can’t do that anymore. There is too much at stake.
I took my girls on a walk through Lincoln Park yesterday, and I didn’t feel safe. I scrutinized the faces of white people wondering who might let their dog get conveniently loose to bite us. Every time I saw a cop car, my heart skipped a beat.
While your life is business as usual (plus pandemic, that is), mine, and those of millions of Black people in this country, has been completely disrupted by the recent murders and violence. If you could even call our lives “good” before.
So I’m speaking not to the “liberal” white woman, who we have all come to know is not going to speak up right now. I’m speaking to the white humanist who believes that every human was created equal. There is no politics in that. You either believe in equality, or you don’t. You believe that brown kids should be put in cages, or you don’t. You believe that Black people should not be thrown in prisons without due process so that private prisons and states can make a profit, or you don’t. You believe that the police have the right to kill Black people on the street, in their homes, in cars, jogging, with or without their kids present, or you don’t. You believe that education should be equal and available to all citizens, or you don’t. You believe in health equity, or you don’t. You believe that when our whole society can thrive, we as humans can move mountains.
We can go into space. We can create new technology and a sustainable, wonderful life here on this planet that works for everyone when we work together. But you will have to give up something. You have to give up your convenience. You have to have uncomfortable conversations with racists, liberals, and anyone who believes that their whiteness somehow makes them superior to everyone else. You have to call out the bullshit whenever you see it, because that is the only way things will change. You have to look at the streets burning. I know they’re not your streets; you guys are all fine. But you have kids. Where will their streets be, when they’re grown? How long will this white supremacist system protect them from the fire? Is it protecting them, or you, from the 100,000-plus dead from the pandemic? Is the white supremacist system preventing the rich from getting richer?
White supremacy and systemic racism are very short-sighted. You’re either for the advancement of the human race, or you are for your own advancement — which has not gotten us very far.
This letter is way longer than I intended, and if you read this far, then maybe there’s a chance that you’ll step outside of your comfort zone. Maybe you’ll post on your platforms, call your politicians, sign petitions, and stand up to racism on the streets, with friends, family members, and in your homes. Maybe.
True talk: My husband once screamed at me with disgust, “You’re a racist!” because I’d made comments towards Mexicans that I’m not proud of, and which have since examined and addressed. I don’t pretend to be perfect. The point is: This isn’t an easy fight. It gets ugly. You will have to call out the people close to you. You will even have to look in the mirror and call out yourself. But it’s worth it. My husband never gave up on me, so I’m not giving up so easily on you, my white mom friends. And by all means, I’m open to discussion. I welcome it.
Help tell the stories of kids like mine with these beautiful children’s books starring brown and Black girls.