to the mother in target's baby food aisle

Jun 01, 2017

i am just ducking in to grab a pouch of sweet potatoes. your son is wailing at you from the toddler seat of the cart. “i hear you, punkin,” you say, your fingers stretched towards him your eyes flicking between him and the jars on the shelves.

i am just ducking in but I can tell you are tired. your face pulled tight like the accidental grimace caught halfway between a yawn and a smile.

i can tell you are tired, i can, but I am just ducking in real quick so i say, “excuse me,” breathlessly, softly,– in the way that says, don’t notice me while you’re noticing me and your eyes say “of course” I grab a pouch of sweet potatoes from the top shelf, where they keep the organic brands.

and your accidental grimace isn’t accidental anymore and the wound between us seeps and the blood sticks to my soles

because my left arm is draped over a box of Honest diapers (they were out of our go-to) and you have piled the store brand in your cart. you are looking down low for jars of food. i am reaching up high.

your skin is black. mine is white. the blood of the wound still runs red.

one look at the grimace you are quick to hide and the gradation falls away and we are symbols of a society broken and in denial of its brokenness and from somewhere beyond my heart i ache and my throat throbs to say

“i’m sorry” but guilt is the tool we use to keep a problem, not solve it.

so instead I change the words of my heart to,

“I See You.”

I see you, but I don’t know what to do. I do not know how to use my voice, my body, my self in a helpful manner because I do not know what is helpful. I am uncomfortable because there is a wound and I know that I am culpable, but I don’t know how to help it heal. I don’t know how to help besides rooting through my mind for the racist ideas implicit in our society that I have accepted as true and laying them to waste.

It’s not fair. I suppose that is the nature of inequality. But it is not fair, and that inequity frightens me, and I trip into anger because

It’s not fair that my son will have more than yours because my son has white skin.

It’s not fair that playing with a toy gun will get my son chuckles and your son dead.

It’s not fair that your son will be more likely to be imprisoned or killed for walking down the street while my son is statistically more likely to be a terrorist, a murderer, a rapist, and get away with his crimes.

It’s not fair that I get to teach my son how to play and you have to teach your son how to stay alive by not pissing off the wrong white people.

If my son bucks authority, boys will be boys. If yours does the same, he’s a thug.

Excuse my burbling of maternal angst, or rather, don’t. I am a mother now, and I know your child is as precious as mine and that love is all I have to go on

because my understanding of the problem is imperfect. I cannot understand what it is like to be you, but I do understand the ferocity of a mother loving and protecting her children

and it sickens me that the greatest threat to your son

is mine.

I am a mother, and I am not okay with that outcome. The system that threatens the life of your son endangers the humanity of mine.

So I promise you, Mother in Target’s Baby Food Aisle, that my son will know his privilege. He will know that the system is bent backwards in his favor, and that while he works hard, there are those who must work ten times harder just to have their lives acknowledged.

He will know that just because he has more does not mean that he deserves it. He will know that all are deserving of chance forgiveness opportunity peace love choice blessing

and that being denied these basic human necessities speaks of a world broken by fear and separation, not of his exclusive entitlement.

He will know that he is responsible for the world’s inequality. He did not create it, but he has inherited it and benefits from it, just like his father and I have and do. We’ll work on unpacking this grotesque heirloom of racial inquality together. It may take us awhile, but we will work. We will not shy away from the discomfort of the wound we don’t know how to heal, but listen to it, and grow our empathy and compassion in the heat of it.

He will know that his place is beside your son. As ally, equal, and as friend.

This is my promise to you, Blessed Mother in Target’s Baby Food Aisle. For the sake of your son, and for the love of my own.