Walk in My Shoes, White Mom

Keesha Beckford

Hi Friend,

We’ve talked about this before, but a lot has happened since we last spoke. Walk with me.

Imagine sending your son out to play and, because he has a toy gun, someone freaks out and calls the police. Imagine that, because the policeman sees a twelve-year-old black male body with a toy weapon, his mind will fly into Negro Vilification Mode. He’ll say he felt threatened by a twenty-year-old thug and shoot him dead.

Imagine they tackle your daughter and put her in a squad car as she attempts to see what happened to her little brother.

Imagine that your son is given no first aid and is left bleeding to fucking death while law enforcement realizes they fucked up and figures out what to do.

Imagine that your child will be blamed for his own death unless they find that underneath his black skin was somehow a blue-eyed Jesus.

Now imagine you are this mother who knows that if she looked like Gwyneth Paltrow, and her little white son or daughter had been outside playing with a toy gun in (insert rich white neighborhood here), no policeman ever would have been called, no gun drawn, no shots fired, and her child would be alive.

Imagine the case is delayed and the prosecutor is essentially a defense attorney for the police officers.

Imagine the grand jury fails to indict the officer, who was deemed emotionally unfit for duty.

Imagine your son was killed for having a toy gun in his waistband in an OPEN CARRY state.

Imagine the despair and the rage.

Of an entire people.

Imagine knowing that the bodies of your children, parents, siblings are not seen as human. That you might be shot if you so much as question a police officer as to why you were being stopped, while Richard Dear and Dylan Roof who had just MASSACRED people were arrested like they were the fucking Queen of England. While John Crawford was shot holding a TOY GUN in a Wal-Mart. While a white woman pointed a very real looking toy gun at police in Connecticut, daring them to shoot her, and she is alive today.

Imagine knowing that as a parent you have taught your children to follow the rules. To obey even. To respect authority. To stay out of trouble. To use their best judgment. Not to bow to peer pressure, especially when they know something is wrong. Imagine having the power and desire to teach them all this. Imagine teaching them great big words and the nuances and intricacies of the English language, and how to think, and work hard, everything else that equates with doing the right thing. Imagine knowing that despite all that, you can’t teach away their black skin, which might be the only thing that could save them.

Imagine over-disciplining your son in public. Not because you’re abusive, but because you are deathly afraid of white people thinking your kid is out of control. Imagine your desperation for people to see he knows better and to see the good in him.

Imagine knowing your white friends have a luxury of laissez-faire parenting that you never will. Aggressive, non-compliant white boys are called assholes. Aggressive, non-compliant black children are called inmates.

Imagine knowing that boys love playing with toy guns and that telling them not to is like telling a fish not to swim. Imagine knowing your son’s going to fashion anything he can into a shooter and that the literature says to indulge the fantasy because he’ll grow out of it! Imagine your terror when he wants to go outside with his white neighbors in your diverse neighborhood because they have waterguns and he wants to play, too. Imagine being terrified and sick to your stomach because even though the gun is blue and orange you never know these days.

Imagine having to make your son understand that going out to play could get him arrested or killed.

Imagine putting on a smile as you look at your now seven-year-old boy with his loss of baby fat, growing more sinewy and chiseled, and wishing he could stay three forever. Not because that was such a sweet stage, not because where did the time go, but because you could vomit with fear. Imagine knowing that so much of his country doesn’t care about him.

Imagine knowing that the men in your life could be detained by police because someone said “a black guy did it” or because law enforcement didn’t like the way he wore his pants.

Imagine knowing that the 2nd Amendment has separate and unequal consequences when it comes to African-Americans.  A black man sans badge is a suspect — he’s getting arrested, if not shot within seconds.

Imagine having white friends who love telling you that if you just do the right thing, you’ll be fine! Imagine having to listen to them perform intellectual gymnastics to explain away why the police/stand your ground guy was justified in doing what he did. Imagine having to wonder if they say anything that shows they understand anything about American history and racism at all or what they say when no people of color are around. Imagine having them dismiss your pain over and over again. Imagine wondering why you keep these people in your life when they’re colorblind/obtuse/such assholes.

Imagine knowing that when you protest, people will get angry because their shopping for, or their return travel to, their live children has been inconvenienced.

Imagine that, when it comes to talking about the perils of being black in America, you could go on for days wondering whether you are underclass or upper class.

Now, after all that, wonder. Don’t assume that it’s just like being fat or short or not having a Louis Vuitton purse like your fashionable friends. Really wonder how on top of everything else, African-Americans do this sickening dance every goddamn day. How with pain and fear gnawing at their hearts, they live and love and celebrate with fierce determination and have even just a little bit faith that their government and their fellow citizens might come around and acknowledge privilege and inequity, that they might even see them as human beings, even when all too much of the evidence says otherwise.

Wonder, and then do something.



Take a moment and walk with this mama



Before her two children re-choreographed her life, Keesha was a professional dancer who performed in the U.S. and in Europe. Today she teaches modern and jazz dance in the Chicago area. She is also the human cyclone behind the blog Mom’s New Stage. Keesha is one of the select contributing authors of In The Powder Room’s first anthology, You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth. Her writing has been featured on Mamapedia, The Huffington Post, in the New York Times bestselling anthology I Just Want to Pee Alone, and I STILL Just Want to Pee Alone. She was recently awarded a Voice of the Year Award for her Bonbon Break original piece, Dear White Mom.