My mother worries about me not eating enough. About having my heart broken. About working too hard. She’s kept up at night worrying about her daughter, just like every mother is.
My father taught me to stand up for the things I believe in, even when it’s not popular. He taught me to believe in myself. To remember to breathe. He reminds me often that I’m capable and have a world of opportunity in front of me. That I’m worthy, strong and valued.
There is privilege to my mother’s worries. Her energy is reserved for helping me through the things all of us inevitably face - a broken heart, disappointment, illness and uncertainty. These things come by way of knowing love, success, health and clarity. The good and bad my mother feels alongside of me are a part of life.
My mother doesn’t have to worry about the fact that I’ve at times neglected to keep my car’s registration up to date. Or that I like to pull the hood up around my ears when I wear my favorite sweatshirt. When I was young, she never worried about me riding my bike to the convenience store to buy candy and never hesitated to send me and my friends to the park to burn off our excess energy. When I tell her about my early morning runs through neighborhoods that aren’t my own, she doesn’t worry I’ll look suspicious, just that I’ll get lost in the dark. She’s allowed to be proud of my achievements and education because she doesn’t worry they’ll be used against me, doubted, or viewed as an anomaly. My mother’s worries don’t have to account for the color of my skin.
There is privilege to my father’s life lessons. He taught me to be kind to and respectful of everyone, but not at the expense of my own dignity, or out of fear. He didn’t have to teach me that people will perceive me as a threat or dangerous. He didn’t have to teach me to comply as a safety measure, or to always allow others to be right even when they’re wrong in effort to dissuade tension that inherently exists when others interact with me. My father’s life lessons don’t have to account for the color of my skin.
My mother does not lose sleep at night after another Black man, or boy, is killed at the hands of the police because she fears I may be next. My father often reminds me to breathe but doesn’t worry my life will be cut short because I can’t breathe. My parents worry about my health and happiness because of life’s general hardships and curveballs, but they don’t have the extra burden of worrying about a system that’s failed me, a culture that fears me, or a caste system that devalues me. My parents’ worries are valid, but they’re typical and to be expected of any parent. The unique worries of parents of Black children are valid too, because we’ve made their fears typical and to be expected. Until we each take responsibility for our culpability in America’s brokenness, and until we commit to change, we should all be losing sleep.
Danz is an avid runner, reader and writer. She’s a graduate of Concordia College in Moorhead who lives, works and believes in downtown Fargo. She’s a regular contributor to The Forum’s opinion pages.
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.