Our sons are biracial and their lives matter, too

My son will be 32 years old this week. When he was three, I took him to nursery school one day and he said, “Mom, I’m black.” I looked at him in his car seat and took a deep breath. I had been practicing the story since the day he was born about the fact that his father was black, and his mother was white, and that made him biracial/multiracial. I began my story and he was silent. I didn’t hear a sound. I began to wonder if I had said too much too soon or if he simply couldn’t process the information. Finally he said, “Mommy? I’m purple now!” He had been learning his colors and was simply trying them all out.

Parents teach their children about colors of the ball, the sky, a rainbow, their shoes, hair bows, food and cars more than we teach about skin colors. But yet, they do learn at very young ages that we all have colors called races. Whether they learn it from teachers, grandparents, neighbors, extended family, babysitters or television, they are taught the racial colors and attitudes. They eventually attach words to colors like love, hate, pretty, ugly, good and bad.

Now comes “Black Lives Matter,” and the senseless killings of black males. I know many mothers of grown black males. I know they don’t want their sons on the streets of America; alone or with friends, day or night, in their own backyard or someone else’s. Their mothers are afraid for them.

 I admit it was cute when my son was young. I remember the saleswoman who looked at me, then at my son is his stroller, put her hands together in a little clap and said, “It’s so wonderful when people adopt children from other countries!”

We raised him to befriend people of many races—colors. We lived in neighborhoods that were mixed and he was loved by both sides of his interracial family. His world was multiracial, multiethnic, multicultural, and he was safe. Then he grew up.

He looked like Tiger Woods. A spitin’ image. Even though Tiger made it very clear that he considered himself a combination of his races (the word he made up was Cablinasian), people would call him black. People like Fuzzy Zoeller would make jokes about the world’s most famous golfer and fried chicken. People would classify Tiger as black because he “looked black.”

My son, my Tiger, could look black. We weren’t stupid. When he got his driver’s license we explained “driving while black” and taught him how to act if he was ever stopped by the police. His father made certain he never left the house without his identification. But we were not scared.

Now I fear every day. My son could look black to people. He could be stopped by a white (or black) police officer. He could be killed all because of the color(s) of his skin. Your fear for your black son is no bigger than my fear for my biracial one. I’m so sorry for all of us.

Susan Graham is the president of Project RACE, the national civil rights organization advocating for multiracial children.