The massacre in Charleston has made it hard for me to write. As has the continuation of this campaign; the horror of the burning churches. I have been in the land of milk stains and breasts and this tiny baby boy and sleep and burps, but what do I say about the world that is happening…because though this began as a very private space I can’t help knowing that there are people out there reading. And that has begun to slow me down. It seems too small to write the everyday life I’ve kept on living, but that’s also the truth of it: that I have simply kept on living that life. And there, there’s that thing. That I could forget and remain tucked away from the news. That is a thing; a property of whiteness. To live essentially untouched and know that you are not the target. My sadness can be real but I am not kept up at night by fear for my new son’s survival in this country.
Race often silences me.
I realized the other day that though I know myself as multiracial, my son is not, won’t. That is a thing about the way race moves and pigments shift. Infant faces change of course and who knows what ethnic markings may emerge, but regardless, I do know he will know the unearned and very real privileges of whiteness. As, I suppose, I have. I thought by the time I had a child I would have figured out my language of racial and ethnic belonging, but I haven’t. I wanted to, but I’m still unsure. I think mostly my whiteness embarrasses me; feels linked to old hurts, old mistakes, things I did, my estrangement from my family of color always feeling like my fault.
Even more embarrassing is that a small, but real part of myself hoped for my child to deliver me from whiteness…to exert the other family genes and give people pause when they saw us all together. This hasn’t happened.
But also, whiteness itself is kind of embarrassing. The way it’s both smugly and naively unaware of itself. The way it just takes and takes and never asks if it should. The way it does not see how it foolish it looks or how little it knows.
The news of the massacre shocked me and then my brain shied away from it. I retreated back into my cave but I’ve done this many times when I didn’t have an infant to care for. I cried exactly once over it and could have cried longer but swallowed it up and then I went and bought a coffee and walked in the rainy park with the boy and B.
Everything is very comfortable these days. B. not working yet, and making me these glorious plates of food and we walk three blocks and are in a park, and our home is cool and comfortable and I forget to see how weird and gross the class and race dynamics of this neighborhood have become. B.’s whiteness is complicated by his parent’s immigrant views of the world and by having spent much of his childhood in non-white spaces. My whiteness is complicated by my brown father. But the boy? If we continue to live here? If we raise him here, where the only people of color are employees? Where the rich wear charity run t-shirts and listen to NPR and actually say things like, “My dear friend, who happens to be Black/Asian/Latina.”
I am raising a boy who will become a white man.
How to complicate it. I’m not sure. But at least I’m feeling it again; the ache of the murders. At least piercing the veneer of this place. That needs to happen. And now the boy howls, and I have to walk away. In two days the Fourth of July. How to complicate that? That too seems like a thing that needs to happen.