Dear Mothers, Tucking Your White Sons Into Bed Tonight

Dear mothers, tucking your white sons into bed tonight:

I am you.

I have three little boys. The oldest has golden brown eyes and a smile that would knock your socks off. The middle one has sandy blonde hair that grows straight out of his head like corn stalks and mischievous green eyes that give him away (almost) every single time. 

My littlest boy – the stinker – is a towhead, and has a freckle on his forehead that I just noticed for the very first time earlier today.

Like you, I tuck them into bed at night. My little guy needs exactly three stories, a whispery rendition of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" and the blankets tucked under his shoulders. My middle son likes the "burrito" wrap because he's a burrower. I'll often find him in the morning completely cocooned in all his blankets, an errant foot or elbow chilled from its escape.

But my oldest boy, the little boy I'm just a few years shy of losing to adolescence, the one who justlearned what the word "mate" really means, likes to chat a bit before bed.

Like you, I use that time to give him advice. 

Like you, I use that time to warn him of dangers in this world. 

I tell him that brushing his teeth means brushing all of his teeth, including the molars on top, which can be tricky. If he doesn't, he can get cavities. 

I tell him to stand up to that kid who is being mean to him in class, and if someone ever punches him, to hit back with all the grit he's got because he'll only have one shot to make the right impression.  

I tell him not to go into public bathrooms alone, and never to use the urinals if a grown man gives him a strange feeling in his gut. 

But, mothers tucking your white sons into bed tonight, do you know the advice I never have ever thought about giving him?

That one day, he will be driving. His car will stall. And he's going to have a very important decision to make: call the police for help or don't. Because, if he calls the police, there is a small chance that because he's big – he's supposed to be 6'3" like his daddy – and because he's white, some poorly trained police officer may assume that he's…

                …a threat.

                …a criminal.

                …carrying a weapon.

I've never warned him of that particular danger.

Because, mothers tucking your white sons into bed tonight, I haven't had to.

It isn't true. It's not a danger my white son with the golden brown eyes and the killer smile has to face. 

But there are other mothers out there tonight, tucking their black sons into bed – little boys who appreciate a whispery rendition of their favorite lullaby – who are giving the warning, hearts clenching at even the thought of such a fate befalling their most precious of gifts.  


Because the danger their little boys will face as they sprout from adolescents into big 6'3" men like their daddies, is very, very real.