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    Posted August 21, 2014 by
    lwhitneyb
    Location
    Los Angeles, California
    Assignment
    Assignment
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Your view of the Ferguson protests

    lwhitneyb and 14 other iReporters contributed to Open Story: Your view of the Ferguson protests

    Black Mother-itus

     

    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     As soon as lwhitneyb found out she was going to have a son, she was concerned. "I was instantly worried about how he would be perceived and treated, simply because of the color of his skin," she said. She doesn't want her son Langston, who is 4-months-old, to be subjected to those standards when he gets older. Frustration over the shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, inspired her to write this essay. "There is a pervasive idea that armed or not, black men are dangerous and to be feared. And that fear is what makes some people feel it is ok to open fire and 'protect themselves,'" she said. She says the fear for her son's safety as he gets older is almost like a disease, one which she penned as 'Black Mother-itus.' The only cure for this she says is awareness. "It's having white mothers stand up for the little black boys in the preschool classes that are being punished more harshly than their black counterparts. It’s having the white man shopping in the store stand up for the black teen being followed around by the shop clerk who assumes he’s stealing. It's having the white family stand arm and arm and hand in hand in protest in places like Ferguson," she said.
    - Jareen, CNN iReport producer

    I think I’m coming down with a case of Black Mother-itus. I felt it as an inkling the moment I found out I was having a boy. Now, as a first time mommy to a perfect, precious, curious little black genius (no bias) I am starting to feel the dread that comes from knowing that no matter how many high priced schools I put him in, how often I breastfed him, how many wooden toys and bpa-free teethers he had, how many “I love you’s” I say or kisses I give, it may not matter.

    Because I live in a nation where the mere fact that he is a black man makes him so frightening, so threatening to others that they feel empowered to shoot first and ask questions later. I live in a nation where the color of his skin is considered a weapon -- regardless if he’s armed or unarmed, guilty or innocent. Where he may be made to feel less than by officers “stopping and frisking” him on the corner and women that see him walking may move swiftly to the other side of the street because he “fits the description” …when the problem is in the description. I live in a nation where I will be afraid to send him out looking like his peers because a hoodie, or sagging pants, or a hat, or some kicks may just be enough for someone to decide he’s “black enough” to deserve to die without a trial. Where I’m going to have to sit him down and explain that he can’t do the same things as his white peers, because young boys of color even get suspended from preschools (!) at an alarming rate for the same infractions. And while little Billy can get away with swiping something from the corner store, knocking on a door unexpectedly, or even running around at night – my little Langston could be killed.

    And I have to have these conversations at the same time as I teach him that he’s a fantastic person, filled with endless possibilities, that he’s bright and capable and a valued member of society. That he has an obligation to help humanity and that he's blessed and highly favored. That he comes from a long line of strong black men, men who were brave enough to fight for civil rights, strong enough to survive slavery, powerful enough to run nations. How do you do that at the same time as telling him he has to acknowledge that he’s something to be feared?

    I wanted to take my son to the march in LA on Sunday, to instill in him (even now) an activist heart, and show him how to have his voice heard in a democracy. But then reports of how to “best deal with the tear gas” made me decide to stay home. On TV we’ve seen cops armed like they are heading into Fallujah -- not Midwestern America -- using tear gas and flash grenades against citizens. Citizens. Citizens! I’m not saying all cops are bad (they definitely aren’t) but calling people “fucking animals” and pointing loaded weapons in their faces isn’t deescalating. It’s demoralizing. It makes people feel that “if they are going to treat me like an animal, why don’t I act like one?”

    It’s nobody’s fault.

    It’s everybody’s fault.

    Check your privilege.

    Acknowledge your lack thereof.

    It’s not an issue that started in Ferguson, or in Queens, or in Sanford or even on the BART in Oakland. The question becomes what do we do next, to change perceptions, to value lives equally, put fear to bed? And if there is something to be done, would we even care enough to do it?

    I think I’m coming down with a case of Black Mother-itus.

    And I’m scared to death there is no cure.
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