Two Moms Part I- A Conversation About Race and Raising Sons

In the wake of the murder of Trayvon Martin, and subsequent verdict in the George Zimmerman trial, two mothers and independent school professionals, one black, one white decided to explore their response and responsibility to the tragedy and verdict.

This past summer, Gina Parker Collins; RIISE Founder and Angie Bergeson; The IDEAL School of Manhattan’s Head of School, made a conscious decision to explore and express the challenges and possibilities that boys of color, particularly boys of color in independent schools face. It is our intention to collaborate, add to the discussion, and support entire school communities.

We have similar goals as mothers and professional women, along with personal desires to have positive impacts with social justice in our school communities, and beyond. At the same time, we come from different cultural backgrounds, experiences, and realities.

Over the next several months we will courageously share our collaborative journey through blogs and events. There will be plenty of opportunities for you as parents, students, and independent school professionals to join us on our journey.

Here’s the first leg of our journey, a co-blog – Dreams for Our Sons

Dreams For My Son – Gina Parker Collins
I don’t often dream of what life will be like as my son grows into adulthood. I sort of focus on the present: Why do I have to repeat myself 3 times? Did you remember to grab your violin? Did you rush through your homework? Did you brush your teeth well? Am I offering him enough enrichment opportunities? Wow, he is growing so tall!

Perhaps, my dreams for my 10 year old son shape up to be more like expectations. My expectation for his education is distinguished and embedded with a foundation that elevates his moral courage. I expect that his character become fully developed, earning him a well-respected position in diverse communities. I also expect him to be a thoughtful and compassionate member of society, a great friend, husband, and father. I have expectations that he will have success academically and socially as he moves through his middle and upper school divisions at his independent school and into college, understanding that as a boy of color, a black boy, he brings a uniqueness that he will continue to identify and shape, on his own terms. I expect him to do this with pride, recognizing his position as a valued contributor and resource to an increasingly complex global society.

If I really consider what I dream about when I close my eyes at night, it is without a doubt that he is protected from other’s limited perceptions and assumptions of who and what he must be. My dream is similar to that of Dr. King’s, that my son is judged by the content of his character, not the color of his skin.

As expressed in the last sentences of the blog, The Verdict – A Letter to My Son, he won’t do this alone. He will have an advocate in his parents, family, and folks in various communities (see, Reflections On a Blog Post – The Verdict – A Letter to My Son, by a White Mother) that we strategically place him in to reinforce these expectations and dreams of success, moral courage, and love.

My Dream for My Son – A conversation on parenting white sons – Angie Bergeson
I knew what to say to my daughters. At least in the context of being strong girls. I knew to work at building their self-esteem in the face of a “man’s” world. I knew that I would bust every stereotype about girls and women out there in movies, magazines, and television. I was on it! I dreamed for a  future for them where they were considered equal and did not have to take a back seat or lower pay for anything based on their gender. One where they could “lean-in” to leadership and believe it was their right to be fully included. Those dreams were easy because I am a woman and share their identity and because my mind-frame has been been shaped by my own experiences living in this world.

Then I had a son. Wow! I had no idea that I would struggle to figure out what my dreams are for him. What kind of man do I want him to grow into and how do I encourage him to understand his power without making him feel like he holds the heavy burden for everyone? What do I say to him about the danger of misogynistic thinking? What role models are there for him in movies, magazines, and television?  Recently, conversations in the media have brought into perspective the need for schools and parents to talk not just to their girls, but to boys, about violence against women. We have, for years, spoken to our daughters and young women in schools about how to stay safe from violence perpetrated by men. But, we have not done enough in schools or in our conversations as parents to talk directly to young boys about their roles and responsibilities in this matter.

Talking to Boys About Violence Against Women

I have been thinking a lot about additional conversations I should have with my white son. Yes, I am adding white to his descriptor too. He has been born with markers of privilege and power, undeserved, but available to him since birth. I believe that I must help him recognize, just as with his positionality of power with women, what it means for him navigating the world as a white man. How I can best prepare him to advocate for others when their personal power is dismissed by oppression? What is my responsibility in helping him actualize his full human potential which is denied to him through racism and existing oppressive systems. What are the social constructs and privileges that come with his positionality? His intersection of white male in this world cannot be ignored. I cannot neglect to help him understand this positionality and privilege. As in the conversation about women and violence, I have a responsibility to discuss race with my son, beginning at an early age.  These conversations can be had with my daughters as well, but my son, my white son, needs to know how to reflect on the role of racism and sexism in the world and his place in that structure, whether he knows it or not, whether he believes it or not. It cannot remain invisible to him. He was born into a world specifically built to deliver him the best experiences.

Exploring White Privilege

Ultimately, my dream is that my son listen, reflect, and apologize with humility if he gets it wrong sometimes. I want him to work hard to be accountable for his actions and deeds and to be determined to change behaviors that contribute to, or support, oppression. My son attends an independent school with a focus on social justice to support me in these efforts. I also know that if we choose to do this social justice work with our children, we can model powerful humility and a positive racial attitude that allows our sons to recognize their full human potential. This is a dream for society, but it is also my dream for my son.

originally posted here:

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