An Open Call To White Mothers June 09 2020, 0 Comments
An Open Call To White Mothers By Marianne Franzese
Quarantined with of my grown children, we heard the news of the brutal asphyxiation of George Floyd by a police officer. We read that he used his last breaths to call out for his mother.
The call to action was sounded. Enough is enough. I saw my children mobilize. I listened to them check in with their black friends. I heard them grappling with the questions of how can we be better allies? How can we use social media to promote the work of Black Educators? How do we begin to educate our ourselves and our white friends?
I saw the care and consideration that went into every action and I watched as they checked and challenged each other on why they were doing what they were doing. I was witnessing my children find their place in an uprising built by the endless work of black activists.
I stood by and I cried. I felt terrible, broken-hearted and disgusted with my country. My kids turned to me and slammed me up against my white fragility. They called my white tears a form of violence against black people. They outed my colorblindness as a form of systematic racism. They stripped me of my white liberal innocence and told me to do my work.
I was shook. I was defensive. I asked for some guidance. They pointed me in the direction of articles and books that are beginning to dismantle the years of conditioning that make me believe I am good because I am not prejudice or unjust.
They asked me if I wanted to join them at a march in Brentwood, Long Island. I questioned if it would be safe. They told me it was a peaceful protest but any protest could turn violent. They were going.
I was scared for them. I knew I couldn’t hold my children back so I went. Honestly, not because I am brave or bold but because as a mother I was afraid they would get hurt and I wanted to protect them.
The protest turned out to be peaceful and positive and powerfully cooperative with law enforcement. It was very moving to see such a good turn out. As I began to relax I looked around and I noticed that I was the only white woman nearing 60 years old in the crowd.
I grappled with the discomfort of feeling too old and frumpy and fat to be there. I was the oldest and most non-threatening presence in the space. I didn’t want to join in with the chants because I did not want to call attention to my lack of belonging. I hid behind my shield of invisibility and awkwardly tried to disappear into the background.
As I quietly merged with the energy of solidarity, I felt an unsettling hum in my ear . . .
Imagine how scared black mothers feel every time their children leave the house.
Imagine the countless talks black mothers have with their children on how to avoid any interaction with the police.
Imagine the discomfort black mothers endure for the sake of their children.
I imagined. And there it was loud and clear: my incredible white privilege. As a white mother I do not have to live in the relentless fear for my children’s lives. What an exhausting burden to bear alone.
George Floyd sounded the call. Mama!
Dressed in black, in the heat of a June day I made the promise to honor his final invocation. She is my Focus. I stand beside her, in front of her, behind her, at her feet, whereever she needs me. I am on duty and ready to respond to her call to action. I have been absent for a long time but today I am here and I am listening.
In doing so, I am now calling out to every middle aged white mother to listen and learn with me.
I returned to the protest in full presence. I understood my place. I began scanning the crowd like a mother eagle looking for potential danger, ready to swoop in and quietly occupy the space between. No one needed me to save them so I simply stood in the space between who I was yesterday and who I was becoming today.
I stood in solidarity with every mother who raised her children to fight for justice.
I stood in solidarity with every black mother who had the resilience to raise her children to become revolutionary leaders.
I stood in solidarity with George Floyd’s mother and I did not cry.
I held the space to allow her to safely grieve the call of her son that went unanswered.