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So I knit. And I think about knitting. I think about those who knit before me. The lore of knitting and the lure of knitting. It is all about how I knit in my life and what knitting means to me.

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Dark Son

My heart is sad. It aches. It grieves. And it is angry. And confused.

I have three children whom I birthed. Two were born with blue eyes and blond hair and light skin. One was born with brown eyes and brown hair and very brown skin. Two of my children are white. The other one, he is my Dark Son. 

He is not white. 

When he was a tiny baby, I just thought Dark Son was dark. He has the skin tone that white people risk skin cancer to achieve by baking themselves in the sun on summer days. Once, when Dark Son was a few months old, he accompanied me and his Older Brother to Older Brother’s art class. As the parents were hanging out, chatting, and generally ignoring our children, a dad, who accompanied his wife and daughter for the first time, looked at me holding Dark Son, looked at Older Brother, looked back at Dark Son, and with a quizzical look on his face said “do your sons have the same father?”

His wife was mortified. I mean, I think I saw her die a little bit right there, of both embarrassment and shame. She admonished her husband greatly and apologized to me. I sat there holding Dark Son and felt sorry for that poor man who obviously did not understand that some things are Thought Bubbles: We don’t say those things out loud.

 I did not respond. I just looked at him. And then I dismissed him and his stupid Thought Bubble words.

But the comments kept coming. The Thought Bubbles kept being said out loud.

The school crossing guard stared at me as I walked Older Brother to school with Dark Son in the stroller and Little Bit in the Baby Bjorn. When the Crossing Guard could apparently no longer control her thoughts and confusion and Thought Bubbles, this actual conversation transpired:

Crossing Guard: Are all those kids yours?

Me: Yes.

Crossing Guard: Even the little dark one?

Me: Even the little Dark One.

When Dark Son was in kindergarten, the US was taking the census, so naturally his school conducted their own census. Dark Son came home confused and kept asking me what he was. I, having no idea what transpired at school, could not figure out what he meant. I’m sure I just responded “I don’t know! What are you?” like it was some sort of game and he had something funny to say.

Finally, Older Brother, frustrated at my total lack of understanding and general idiocy, said “he means is he Caucasian?”

I was stumped. I mean, he isn’t white. People do not think he is white. He is Dark.

I finally stammered that he was Mediterranean. It was the best I could do at that moment.

And on and on and on it went.

And on and on and on it goes.

Perhaps you recall my road trip last summer?

Thirty two days. Six thousand five hundred miles. Fourteen states.

In place after place after place, I was asked, usually in the politest of ways, if Dark Son was mine. Some people were very creative: 

Wow! So… You’re travelling across the country… By yourself with… your? … three? … kids?

Sometimes they were embarrassed to ask the question of me, so they directed it to the kids:

So, Older Brother, is Dark Son your brother… or is he a friend you’re travelling with? 

Clever, right?

So here I am. A white mother. With a not white son. It feels ridiculous to even say.

Some people I know say “oh, I don’t think of him as not white. To me, he looks white.” Yes, to you he does, but only because you know him in the context of me, and Older Brother, and Little Bit. And you see his father, who is also Dark {who is also often mistaken for someone who is not white}.

Last summer, when we returned home, I knew I was going to have to start preparing my Dark Son to exist in this white world. It started with a simple conversation, when he made a joke that, unbeknownst to him, contained a racial undertone. It was a joke about soccer and Mexico, and he certainly did not understand it to be racial in any way. He simply played soccer with lots and lots of Hispanic children.  

After talking about the joke for a little while and what it could mean or how others might hear it, I said:

-- Dark Son, you are Dark. Do you know what that means?

-- It means I have Dark skin.

-- Look at Older Brother. What do you see?

-- What do you mean?

-- Older Brother has blue eyes and light hair and light skin. If you and Older Brother were both doing exactly the same thing that was a little bit naughty or against the rules, like speeding in exactly the same type of car, going the exact same number of miles over the speed limit, who do you think is more likely to get in trouble?

 -- Me?

-- Yes, you. Because when the police pull up to Older Brother’s car, they will see a teenager out for a joy ride. But when they pull up to your car, they will see the color of you before they know anything else about you. They see a kid who might be up to no good, just because you are Dark.  

-- Okay?

-- So that means that you have to be even more careful than Older Brother because you are more likely than him to get in trouble.

And so we have little conversations like this every now and again. And I feel silly. But also I feel pain. It is a weak pain compared to that of an African American Mother with her own Dark Son. It is a weak pain because I know my whiteness protects my Dark Son. My whiteness keeps Dark Son safe while he is with me. No cop will bother him and his long, gangly stride, as he parades down the street as long as he is with me. Or maybe they will, but my whiteness will allow me to say to the policeman ‘This is my Dark Son. He is okay. He is with me.’ And they will let him go.

But then today, when we were in the car, driving back from Hyde Park, I was listening to the news on the radio. Dark Son was annoyed with this. He wanted to listen to music and he asked me ‘why do we have to listen to this?’ And I said ‘because I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what else to do. I have to listen. You need to listen. It is important.’

His protestations continued until finally, this conversation:

--Dark Son, do you know that African American Mothers must tell their Sons how to behave in this world in a way that you and I can hardly even imagine. They must tell their Sons that when they get pulled over by a police officer, they need to raise their hands in the air so the police can see that they are not holding a weapon.

{Dark Son silently stared at me as I tried to control my tears}

--Dark Son, do you remember when that man at the pool last summer asked Older Brother if you were his brother or a family friend?


-- Why do you think he was asking that question?

--Because I am Dark.

--Yes. Because you are Dark. People do not know if you are white or not. People try to put other people into categories because it makes them feel safer. But you don’t fit into a category. So I don’t know if I am supposed to tell you to raise your hands up in the air when you get pulled over by a police officer. I do not know what to tell you to do to stay safe.

And this is my pain. I don’t think for one millisecond that it comes close to the pain of the African American Community. Of African American Mothers. Of African American Boys and Men.

My pain is a shallow pain. My pain is a luxury that I can forget about or choose not to think about. For now. It will never be all encompassing for me the way it is for African American Mothers. My son will never know the pain of African American Boys and Men.

My pain is miniscule compared to what others must endure. At times, I wonder if it is even real. And I know that African Americans need not wonder at all about the reality of their pain.

I cannot imagine. I simply cannot imagine living with that pain every second of every day on every street I walk down. Wondering if this is the encounter with whiteness that is going to make my life change in unfathomable ways.

I do not know where to go from here. I do not know what to do, other than to respond with kindness and love. I do not know what to say other than to share my experience, which is a tiny thing.

But things must change. Our world must change. We cannot continue to destroy lives because of anger, or hatred, or rage, or fear. These are Human Beings. Lives. People.

A Brother. A Husband. A Father. A Dark Son. 

Reader Comments (1)

A lovely thoughtful post. I am trying to reach you via Ravelry. You have some yarn for sale that I am interested in.

November 12, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterKara

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