Being White in America comes with responsibilities to be embraced and fulfilled.
I started taking inventory of those in our life, specifically my son’s life. I have a rambunctious, eager to help mom and dad, blue-eyed, sandy blonde-haired boy. He is a white toddler living in a middle- to upper-middle-class suburb. As the country is mourning the death of George Floyd, my 2-year-old is blissfully unaware of what is happening. But, as his mother, I know he is already ahead of the curve compared to those of color.
He entered the world at the end of February at a hospital in a wealthier area of town. When I start to look back at everything from prenatal appointments, there was something, or should I say someone distinctly missing, a person of color. During my prenatal appointments, those checking me in, those doing my ultrasounds, and the nurses were all white. In my haze of remembering the five days in the hospital during his birth, the nurses, lactation consultants, all white. Could my son not have crossed paths with a person of color?
Born a white male in middle America, he is already miles ahead of a boy of color born on the exact same day. He will play outside in our yard, walk to a friend’s house, or ride his bike without being questioned why he is in the neighborhood. This is not lost on me, his mother. My talk to him about if he gets pulled over by the police will be entirely different than a mother of color. She will be telling her son how to remain alive.
I continued to take inventory of those in his life. His pediatrician, the nurses, his ENT doctor, our Parents-as-Teachers liaison, all white. His babysitter, the other kids he plays with, all white. My son has not had a meaningful exchange with a person of color, and it needs to change.
I can read books to him, showing different races and nationalities. I can make sure whatever is on TV shows the diversity of cultures, but it falls on me as his parent to bring those all to life. It falls on me to seek out opportunities for both of us outside of our suburban bubble. It falls on me to show him all the beauty there is from someone who doesn’t look like him. But it’s also my job to educate him on the responsibility and privilege of being a white male in America. To speak out on the injustices of the world that happen every day to people of color, those practicing different religions, women, the LGBTQ community, immigrants, and so many others.
There is a picture floating around social media of a young mom, with her young son looking out their car window. She is in tears holding him as they watch those protesting and fighting for justice. Fighting for their right to be heard, and not dead. My heart hurts for her, and the fear she must be feeling. The social inequality facing our country is beyond a breaking point. It’s broken, so very broken. My hope is to raise a boy who is willing to speak out on this system. To have the tough conversations needed to learn and mend bridges. To be empathic. I want that young mom to know we support them and will fight to ensure as her son grows, he comes home every night to her.
Stephanie Enger-Moreland is a native of St. Louis, born and raised. She attended college at Maryville University (BA) and Lindenwood University (MA). Days are full as she divides her duties between her job as the Director of Volunteers & Special Events at a local food pantry and as wife to Chris, mom to a lively 2-year-old boy and “bonus” mom to two older daughters. If time allows, Stephanie devotes her time to various nonprofits who are dear to her heart. When she isn’t trying to figure out how to change the world, you can find her at home in Fenton catching up on all of her favorite Housewives or sitting back, watching the glorious chaos of home!