It Would Not Happen To My Son
It would not happen to my son.
And that is what I must acknowledge.
In January of 2010, my husband and I wept in front of our tv screen. We could not look away from the faces of adults and children crawling their way out from under rubble left by the earthquake that devastated Haiti. We sent money and bought t-shirts to support relief efforts, but the faces stayed in our hearts and minds. How could we help?
We decided we wanted to adopt a child. With two kids of our own, we knew we had the resources and love to help at least one child have the safety and support of a forever family. International adoption is an expensive and very complicated process. We encountered many obstacles, closed doors, and were interrupted by the sudden death of my mother-in-law. Eventually, the road led us away from Haiti to Uganda, which closed their doors to international adoption right after we completed our home study and prepared our dossier to be sent halfway around the world.
This chapter of our life did not have the ending we anticipated. It seems it was not meant for our family to adopt internationally, but every time I see a headline of a young man with dark skin shot down and killed, I can’t help but think of a tale of two sons.
Had we been able to adopt a little boy from Africa, I would have two sons— one blonde with blue eyes and one with dark skin.
When my boys left the house in the morning, I would not worry about one of them wearing a hooded sweatshirt, but I would the other.
When my boys were pulled over by the police, I would not worry how one might be treated, but I would the other.
When my boys wanted to passionately speak their minds and stand up for what they believe to be true, I would not worry that one would be feared as an angry male, but I would the other.
When my boys went out for a jog, I would not worry about one of them coming home safely, but I would the other.
This list could go on and on.
I worry about a lot of things with my two children, but I am not exhausted with the constant concern for their safety every single time they leave the house. Talking to my African American students, friends, and acquaintances through the adoption community, I hear how extremely tired they feel— worn out from all of the corners, angles, events and tragedies that present yet another opportunity for danger to their loved ones. I cannot imagine the weight of this burden.
No, my son would not be shot on the road while out jogging. But Wanda Cooper-Jones’ son was killed. I spent Mother’s Day having a picnic and hiking with my son. She spent Mother’s Day grieving the loss of her son, Ahmaud Arbery.
We are not “in the same boat.” Not even close. She carries the weight of the world and the nightmares of countless mothers across this country. I cannot pretend to understand the fear she endures accompanying every outing, event, game, or walk down the street.
On Mother’s Day, I want to acknowledge that our jobs are not the same. We are in different boats on a tumultuous sea. I will recognize that I see her fear and suffering. It cannot be unseen or ignored. I want to make it better and be part of the solution. I want to raise my white children to see it and not turn away from it. I don’t want our work as mothers to be so unjustly imbalanced.
It might not happen to my son, but it happened to her son. I grieve with Wanda Cooper-Jones and hope she can find some semblance of peace in this hardest season of motherhood.