An Open Letter to My White Son

Dear beautiful baby,

Our country is mourning — again. Yet again, white supremacy has proven to be the true terrorism. A young white man yet again killed multiple people and terrorized a city for weeks.

I have to wonder: What if we were as diligent about teaching our white sons not to become terrorists as we are about teaching our white daughters not to be sexually assaulted? Or shamed them for becoming terroristic assholes as much as we shame our daughters for being assault victims…

Sweetie, we’ve got to talk. I love you, my little bugga monster. We snuggle every night, and I still lie awake in awe of your finger dimples and the smell of your breath and the way your lower lip pouts. I am your mama. It’s my job to desperately believe you are the most incredible human in the universe.

My love, you were born with the greatest privilege.

You are white. You are genetically male. You will be paid 30–50% more than women for the same job. You will be assumed “smarter” and “more capable” by your teachers and bosses. Your “assertiveness” will be praised, while a woman would be labeled as “bitchy” or a person of color as “angry”. People like you are let off the hook and not held fully accountable for their actions. People like you who become serial killers, terrorists, or predators are dismissed as “loners”, and news outlets will always post smiling pictures of them.

Everyone always justifies how “out of the ordinary” it is when white men commit atrocities. “We just don’t understand how this could happen! He came from such a good family!”

Yes, son, you do come from a good family. We have a home. We’re decently educated. Your dad and I have prioritized being co-parents who both spend lots of time with you. We take you to a church semi-regularly. You are sincerely loved and valued. And all of us receive the benefits of white privilege.

I am assumed to be a competent mother and upstanding citizen, even when I pay with WIC vouchers at the grocery store while you fuss on my hip.

Your giant size is treated as a blessing rather than a reason to fear for your future.

Your father receives automatic looks of pride from strangers now that he is a “caring family man” — when just a few years ago, as a homeless veteran, he was constantly overlooked and dismissed as pathetic and worthless.

Let me tell you right now: it is not anyone else’s job to educate you on why you shouldn’t ignore your white privilege or why you should take a step back to allow other voices to be heard. It is my job. It is my emotional labor that you should — and will — receive. And it is your job to continue to educate yourself. Just as it will be your job to educate your children.

Honey, you do not deserve the overtly positive treatment you will receive from the world. No, this is not your “fault”. And you do not have to feel guilty. But you must act accordingly.

You must use this privilege to help make this world better than you found it.

The reason I have to tell you all this so early is because you are currently growing up in the American South. Even though we live in a racially and ethnically diverse neighborhood, the neighbor across the street flies a f*cking Confederate flag. You’ve got a lot of neighbors and family members who are “conservative” and will try to convince you that it is your “duty” to take pride in your “heritage.”

You are the precise type of human they will target to become a “nationalist”.

You are strong. You are brilliant. You are charming. You will be large and intimidating. You are the type of pawn they need.

They will come at you. Sidling up to you like snakes. Fluffing up your ego. Telling you that you are “better”. That you “owe it to your country”.

The heritage they speak of is hate and genocide and prideful ignorance.

That “heritage” is not worth protecting.

That heritage — and every single one of their reasons — is a load of crock.

You owe it to your country, your mama, your daddy, and your million aunties to be a brave and compassionate person.

I hate to threaten you because, after all, you’re only 4 months old. But let me say, here and now, if you ever lob hate speech (or heaven forbid, physical violence) at anyone because of their skin color, gender, biological sex, physical ability, nationality, or sexual orientation… I swear to God, I will yank you out of this world so f*cking fast.

You have anger? Go for a swim. Meditate. Come tell me all about it.

You have aggression? Play a sport for f*ck’s sake. Play piano really loud. Don’t hold that shit in.

Don’t blame your frustration about your own life on other people. Know it is okay to fail. Keep going. Be resilient.

Because your most important job is to use your privilege to make the world better for everyone.

All our lives, all our children’s lives, all our grandchildren’s lives depend on you leading the charge on dismantling white supremacy.

I love you, bugga. I will always squish your face with kisses and embarrass the hell out of you in front of your friends. I will do it because I care — and because I want anyone who is a part of your life to know I am watching.

Speak up for people who are punished for speaking up for themselves.

Help others up.

Keep your touch soft and your heart softer.

Keep your mind open to being wrong — and know that being wrong doesn’t make you “bad”.

If anyone ever asks you to do something that just doesn’t feel right in your gentle heart, please tell me in that very instant.

Don’t let lies or hatred take root in your heart. Let me know. I’ll always help you. And if you need a reminder:

  • Black Lives Matter.
  • Climate change is real.
  • God does not condemn anyone because of their sexual orientation.
  • Gender, sexual orientation, masculinity, and femininity all exist on (separate) spectrums.
  • No matter what you do or experience, you will never understand what it is like to be a BIPOC.
  • No — at any time — means no.
  • You are a gift from the Universe.
  • And you were born with a purpose.

If you let hatred take you over, if you become a terrorist, I will be the first to call you one.

And if you do so, I will also be the first to point my finger at myself. I will have failed you.

Please, son, help me not to fail you.

I’m here for you.

I love you.

Forever and always,

Your Mama


mamahoodCJ Howard