We Need to Talk About Race

"Are we bad people?" Archer recently asked me.

"What do you mean? Why do you ask?"

"Because we're white and white people are bad."

We were having lunch with my entire family when he brought this up and we all kind of froze.

"Not all white people are bad, Archer."

"But white people killed Martin Luther King. And white people had slaves. And we're white people."

Yes, that's true, but...

And then I stopped short because I didn't know what else to say.

"I wish I was black," he then said and went back to eating. "I feel embarrassed to be a white person."

And we all kind of looked at each other because, well, fuck. I feel that way too, sometimes. I don't have to worry about my son being shot because of the way he looks in a hooded sweatshirt. And that makes me angry and sad, frustrated and helpless.

"I feel embarrassed to be a white person, sometimes, too. I think a lot of people do."

Like most people, I was appalled by the Trayvon Martin verdict. Grief-stricken. Speechless. As a mother. And a pacifist. As someone who thinks it is insane that concealed weapons are legal. What do I say? How could I possibly relate? I am a white upper middle class woman with white upper middle class children.

How can I speak up for something I have never experienced?

And yet.

I'm not gay.

I've never had an abortion.

I told Archer we'd revisit the race conversation at a later time because, frankly, I didn't know what to say. Clearly racism is a huge issue in our country, the world, but so is the guilt for not knowing what it's like. I have never been made to feel less-than for being white. A luxury I have no control over. A luxury that Archer has no control over. And even at his age, he feels the weight of that.

"It's a difficult conversation to have, Archer. Because being a white male in this world is a privilege and it shouldn't be."

Which is precisely why we should be having this conversation. As families, yes, but also as human beings. Because complacency is our only other option and history has shown that there is nothing more dangerous than keeping our mouths shut and turning our heads.

So let's do this. I want to know how you deal with race in your household? How do you talk to your children about race? What has your experience been like? How can we help each other better empathize and support each other? What can we do better? Thank you in advance for your insight and stories. Peace and love to all.