Being a parent is easier if you’re white

My daughter woke up at about quarter to one last night. I stepped away from Twitter, where everyone was venting about the George Zimmerman verdict, and I brought her a drink of water. It was time for another one of our late night talks.

My daughter only knows about a dozen words, so she’s not much of a conversationalist. But she’s a good listener, and I know she understands more and more of what we’re saying each day. Whenever I’ve got something on my mind that I need to work through, I run it by her; if I’m teaching her a lesson in the process, so much the better.

Last night’s talk was a tough one. I explained that a man in Florida had killed an innocent kid and gotten away with it, and I explained that the colours of their skin had a lot to do with both the killing and the verdict.

That’s not fair, I told my daughter. But that’s the way it is.

I explained that when you’re a parent, and a terrible thing like this happens, you can’t help but think about your own kids. But I also explained that I can never really know what it’s like to be the parent of a kid like Trayvon Martin, because we live in a world where the parents of black children have to worry about things that the parents of white children don’t.

That’s not fair, I told my daughter. But that’s the way it is.

Obviously, it’s not a contest. When I mentioned this disparity on Twitter last night, my friend Wesley replied by noting that the list of people who have it worse than I do in society is mighty long. He was right, but he meant it as a comfort, stressing that I shouldn’t let it diminish the challenges I do face as a parent. In the end, we agreed that although parenting is tough no matter who you are, white parents are getting off light.

That’s not fair, I told my daughter. But that’s the way it is.

Yes, I’ll have to worry more about a girl than I would about a boy, and that’s not fair either. But the irrefutable fact is that I won’t have to worry as much about my white child, in our culture, as I would about a black child.

And because I’m always honest with my daughter during these talks, I told her that I’m glad I’ll never have to worry like that. Even though it might seem selfish, I’m glad I don’t have it as bad as other parents. But what’s important, I said, is to recognize that difference instead of denying it, to acknowledge that you owe it to those other parents to make things better for them, and to commit yourself to doing so in whatever little way you can.

Because it’s not fair. And it’s not the way it has to be.

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