As any parent (or human being, really) I’ve been chewing on the issue of mass shootings in our country for a few weeks now. I’ve made a promise to my son to keep him safe and make sure he is well-educated. Right now those things seem highly contradictory. How can I trust he will be safe when he goes to school? How can I not send him to school?
As I continue to advocate to my elected officials for better gun control, I ran across a post shared by a Facebook friend talking about how a black child would never be a mass shooter because their mama would come “whoop” them. While a lot of us got a good laugh out of it, she was right. Mass shooters are nearly exclusively white and male. Her post actually led to a great discussion on cultural differences in parenting and how we need to learn from each other to raise better kids.
As I read the comments, I felt it boiled down to three major things: respect, entitlement, and consequences. White men are more or less raised to feel they are owed respect (regardless or giving respect), are entitled to certain things, and can avoid consequences. It hit me hard. How am I going to raise my white son better than that?
Black mothers have to raise their children to expect the world will give them the harshest consequences. They raise their children knowing they have to be ten times more respectful to not stir the pot. They raise their children to know that they are not entitled to one damn thing. If a white man walks into a building to commit mass murder, he may be on a suicide mission, but chances are that if he wants to he can walk out of that building unscathed. Can we say that about a black man?
When the media talks about a 19 year old white shooter as a “troubled kid” and a 12 year old black boy as a “man,” we all know the answer to that. It’s highly unlikely a black man would get due process, because it’s highly unlikely he would make it out of that building alive. I’m not in the mind of a criminal, but I have to assume that if one were fearful of death over crimes they have not committed, they’d think twice about actually committing one.
My little boy is only a toddler, but we already focus heavily in our home on equality and diversity. I make a conscious effort to buy him toys that depict women and people of color. We choose diverse names for his stuffed animals so that maybe he won’t assume “Ahmed” is a terrorist or “Lupita” is incompetent if it’s the name of something he loves. We teach him to ask nicely for things, respect people’s space, and that there are consequences to his actions.
But how am I going to teach him that he is not entitled to the things society teaches him he is? How am I going to teach him that while the world we live in will let him avoid consequences, or provide lesser consequences, the system that benefits him isn’t fair? How can I teach him that he should give respect unyieldingly, but that he should plan to earn respect for himself?
I don’t have the answers to those questions. However, I’m certain I can’t come up with them on my own. We can raise better, more well rounded children if we learn from each other. If we reach outside of our own circles, our own cultures, we can learn different things from the people that do it best.