When Do We Start To See Black Men As A Threat? (Our Interview with Lauryn Whitney)

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A couple of weeks ago, a friend shared this video with me (thanks, Jules) and — as a mom — it was like getting punched in the stomach. In this video, Lauryn, the creator, manages to powerfully and succinctly ask a critical question: At what point do we, us fellow white people, start to see black men as a threat?

If you haven’t yet hit play, take a moment and watch. It’s a question worth thinking about, and a video worth watching.

Lauryn was kind enough to do a little mini-interview with us over email, and her answers to some of our very honest questions (ones we’ve heard in our circles of white people) are both thought-provoking and real.


Let’s get the basics out of the way: where you live, how many kids, etc.

I was born in Wichita, Kansas and raised in Plano, Texas ( just north of Dallas). I currently live in Los Angeles with my husband and my 3 1/2-year-old son. Yes I am a mother, a black mother, to a black boy. My life is dedicated to bringing change today to shape a better brighter tomorrow. Our very breath depends on it.

Artist, activist & mother Lauryn Whitney powerfully asks: At what point do white people see black boys as a threat? Our Q&A about anti-black racism, inside.

Oprah Winfrey says, “your calling is what you feel, it is your life force, the thing that gives you juice, the thing that you’re supposed to do, and nobody can tell you what that is.” My life force is for the stories, the hearts, the voice of the people, and the thirst for healing worldwide. I am the Founder of Authentic Voices Media, a Multi-Media Platform built on storytelling, community, and social change. I am a vehicle for change and a platform for everyday people. My life story and experiences are the art of my craft and fuel for impactful CHANGE.

Can you give us a little rundown on what you do? 

I like to say I am a woman of many skills but of one passion. That passion is for the hearts and stories of people. I am an Artivist, an Activist using my Art for conversation and change. That is where Authentic Voices Media birthed from, a need to creatively express my heart’s deepest cry for change. I am also a chef in the eyes of my husband and my son! 

Looking at your bio, you’re a mom, an artist, an actress and an activist. How do you find time for everything? What does your weekly schedule look like? 

Honestly, I don’t find time for everything, at least not always in synchronicity. When I became a mom I only knew how to be a mom, and I had to rediscover my voice and give space for me to emerge. I was really nurtured by other women and mothers. Pre-pandemic, my days started with my son’s morning routine and preschool drop off, and then I would go work out of The Jane Club ( a co-working space curated for mothers and women), and try to pack in as much work as possible before heading home to cook dinner and do the night routine. Those days felt short yet productive (and sometimes unproductive). These pandemic days are a totally different story. It has been such a challenge learning to balance my work along with my son. My husband is a full time actor, so since the industry is shut down he has really taken on the role of caretaker. This time home has been the perfect season for me to dive deeper in my work. I have found myself to be busier than ever, even though I may not be getting paid for the work I am doing. The reward of this season has been more family time, time to process, and freedom from others’ expectations. I wake up, and show up the best I can and how I choose. Being at home really makes me feel like I AM my own boss, I just need a bigger office space!

Three words to define your personal style. Go:

Elegant, Free, and Classic

What is your favorite item in your closet — the one that makes your heart sing?

My handmade Shibori Tie-dye dress by Lisa Silvera. Whenever I wear this dress I feel magnificent, seriously! The dress has so much freedom inside of it, and she made it just for me with a lot of love!

What is your most-worn item of clothing? 

Hands-down leggings! And the comfy cheap pair I pick up on grocery runs to Costco. These are worn everyday with t-shirts or dressed up with a blouse and boots/wedges. Can’t go wrong.

 What’s your favorite mom bag? (The one you carry when you need to fit allllll the things.)

My most worn bag that can carry my world inside was made by women in Ethiopia through the company ABLE. It has doubled as a purse and diaper bag, and now it is all mine and just a purse. It’s beautiful and has a story.

Three beauty products you can’t live without?

  1. I’m not a big makeup person, but I always keep eyeliner and a good lipstick/tinted gloss near. 
  2. Lotion because I can not stand dry skin.

After our craziest, worst days we often find salvation in seeing our kids. What’s your favorite thing to do with them to decompress?

I love a Friday night family movie night and date! Ordering some food, popping popcorn on the stove (the old-fashioned way), and listening to my son laugh. I love when an evening concludes with my son saying “I had fun mommy!” He is so easily pleased. He reminds me that many of life’s joys are in the simplest things, those are where the blessings hide.   

Artist, activist & mother Lauryn Whitney powerfully asks: At what point do white people see black boys as a threat? Our Q&A about anti-black racism, inside.

Top three favorite books to read to your kids?

 “Dad Who Will I be?” by: Todd Taylor , “When God Made You” by: Matthew Paul Turner,  and “Giraffes Can’t Dance” by: Giles Andreae

Do you have any ideas of how we can teach our white kids to stand up (or stand with?) their black friends without going down the rabbit hole of ‘White Hero Saves Black People’? 

Children learn by example, their first example and the most influential being their parents. You should constantly ask yourself what you are reflecting on and through your kids. The very concept of “White Hero saves Black People” is the direct result and child of white supremacy. Racism has taken the ability away from you to see the humanity of black people. Ask yourself, how are you both upholding and benefiting from systems of white supremacy. Then ask yourself, how are your actions and benefits contributing to anti-black racism? There is no playbook or quick-read guide, this work is intentional and ongoing. You can begin by consciously observing and monitoring what ideas, values, thoughts, traditions, and privilege you pass down to your children. Even more simple, when you see someone as equal and human, you treat them as if you just met yourself. 

What are concrete ways non-black kids can be an ally when they’re young? (Like…6 – 8 years old?)

This question alone makes me wonder how we teach our children about differences and acceptance. A concrete way non-black kids can be an ally when they’re young is by watching their parents. So the real question is, how are you, as an adult, leading by example and modeling what it means to personally commit to fighting oppression and injustice? And is it reflected by these actions?: 

1. Educating yourself about different identities and experiences.

2. Challenging your own discomfort and prejudices. 

3. Learning and practicing these skills daily.

4. Taking action and creating interpersonal, societal and institutional change. Children learn right and wrong from inside the home and carry outside. At 6 and 8 years’ old the greatest gift a child can give is authentic friendship that is loving, kind, and embraces a world that was made for more than just people who look like them. 

In your video, you ask a poignant question — gracefully, with strength and impact. Our kids might be lacking the life experience to fully appreciate this poignant question, but where they go from here is largely up to us, their mothers. Our kids should be asked hard questions — ones they won’t necessarily have answers to — but questions they should think carefully about, before those questions answer themselves in their own lives. So. If you had three questions that a mother could ask young children today, for the purpose of prompting conversations, what would they be?

What does freedom look like? 

What in this world do you want to make better?

Do you know what racism is?

My sister wrote an article called How Do I Raise Anti-Racist Kids In A Town That’s Mostly White? This article seemed to resonate with many of our readers who are struggling with the same thing. Do you have any advice?

Here are two questions I would ask you and all those who live “In a Town That’s Mostly White”, particularly one of privilege…

  1. Is your town a reflection of the world you want your child to know?
  2. Are you willing to exchange your privilege for Justice? 

And lastly is there anything you’d like to see us, your allies, doing more of? What is one actionable thing we can do to help further the Cause? 

The word Cause evokes a sense of charity, but what we need right NOW is Justice. Charity is not enough because it is not what will bring lasting change. Don’t get me wrong, a helping hand is necessary. When someone is hungry do not pass them by, stop and feed them. Then do the work (study, learn the history, and self-examine)  to understand the systems that would allow someone to sit hungry, and find a way to use your voice and resources to change it. 

This very moment in time demands that you ask this question of all people that you interview and ALL parents/guardians who visit The Mom Edit … Look inside yourself, examine your privilege and how you benefit from it, and Ask Yourself, What is the one actionable thing I can do to combat Anti-Black Racism? 


Lauryn, thank you so much for taking the time to (virtually) chat with us. It’s so appreciated.

Gang, you can subscribe to Lauryn’s YouTube channel here, or follow her on IG, here.

xo,

S

9 COMMENTS

  1. I have never commented previously despite being a follower of the blog for several years. I feel the need to comment now as I find that over the last several weeks I have been turning to this space for guidance, education, and most importantly to try to figure out where to go from here. I found the video on this particular post so very powerful and thought provoking that I felt compelled to comment. Thank you for forcing us to dig deeper and look harder at ourselves. As a mother of a teenage son who has developmental delays, I have struggled with ways to approach the topic of racism and social justice with him – often kids with atypical neurodevelopment are left out of these discussions as it is believed they “won’t/can’t understand”. I strongly believe that this is not true and I don’t want to give my child a pass because of these delays and seek to ensure that he, particularly as a white middle class male, understands what is going on in the world around him. Any suggestions from the community would be welcome and greatly appreciated.

    • Hi. Lex jumping in here for Team TME. I hesitated to comment, because I feel like I could easily write an entire post on this issue. As a parent, it’s important to note that children pick up on inequalities and what is “unfair” at a very early age — like preschool or earlier. They also pick up on differences and how people are treated by preschool age (personally, I had to deal with this with Goose from around age 2.5 through age 6). From the POV of a former teacher, your point is spot-on. I don’t know how old your son is or the specifics of his developmental delays, but I did teach at the height of IDEA inclusion before “school choice” was dominant, and about ⅔ of my male students (the majority of my “standard” English/Lit classes) had some sort of “labeled” identification. Combine those two perspectives, and here are my thoughts. 1). It’s important to present positive images of BIPOC to your son. Whether that be in the form picture books or Scholastic News articles or Highlights magazines or BrainPop news (you can see the comments Scotti’s post for more suggestions: https://themomedit.com/living-on-life-how-to-be-anti-racist-raising-kids-white-privilege-scotti/) or movies like Akeelah and the Bee or A Wrinkle In Time. PBS also has some great cartoons featuring protagonists of color. Not only is that the right thing to do, but it also prevents confusion. Using tools that present blacks as poor or unruly, or Indigenous people only in feathers or tribal gear (unless contextually accurate) can mix up the message and possibly confuse what you’re trying to convey. 2). Use whatever material you can (American Girl Rosa Parks story (although a bit whitewashed) or Barack Obama’s A Letter To My Daughters) to illustrate people striving for rights can help facilitate a conversation about what’s fair and what’s not fair, and how people may or may not have equal rights (I realize you have a son, but these books are not gender-specific in their messages). Our local library (when it was open) always had great books related to the current moment in the children’s section, and depending on where you live, yours may too — even if it’s a list online. Shana has started her list of children’s books on Bookshop.org (https://bookshop.org/shop/themomedit); she’ll also have a post coming out w/ books for kids, I’ll have one for adults, and eventually I’ll have one about books I have and have read for/with Goose (a slightly different issue since she is a child of color); off the top of my head, we loved Peaceful Heroes in her early years, as well as some kids’ books about Malala. A’s son also pointed out that a ton of his comic books have protagonists of color and are progressive, so she’ll have a post on that too. Apparently Science Fiction is a genre that leads well here.

      Once one’s anti-racist journey is more advanced, we move on from simplistic stories and heroes, but for now highlighting heroes and the fight for rights can both present positive images and show that all people want to be treated fairly and have full human rights, and can help you draw parallels for your son. We’re lucky to have a community that was very supportive when one of the children identified as gender non-conforming in kindergarten or 1st grade, so when my 8-year-old daughter heard the news about the Supreme Court Monday, she was able to easily transfer the knowledge into how it affects this child and others like them. For instance, when I taught Night by Elie Wiesel to my students, the unit was not only about the Holocaust, but also about prejudice, and bystanders, victims and witnesses, and uprisings, and the Hierarchy of Human Needs and people who stood up to the Hitler Youth. By the end of the unit the kids were able to connect the (unfortunate) burning of crosses in their neighborhood in 2008 with the causes of Hitler’s rise to power. Beyond that, I would refer you back to the comments in Scotti’s post. Also, it’s important to note that the fight for disability rights and black lives are intersectional. Black Lives Matter (the organization) encompasses disabled rights, the way it encompasses immigrant and queer rights. Also, many social justice campaigns are intersectional as well. As much as I hate Facebook, I go there to find the human rights coalitions in my area (once you “like” one, FB will suggest others), and then get to their websites from there and sign up for their newsletters. Dr. Reverend William Barber’s Poor People’s Campaign (which will have a virtual rally this Saturday: https://www.poorpeoplescampaign.org/), includes advocacy for differently abled people, some of whom will speak this week, as well as other people fighting for civil rights, including healthcare. I am thinking about a post, because you are not the first person to comment about having a child with a disability, but I also know that intersectionality in terms of civil rights is just a part of who I am, and might make it more difficult to address in a way that is helpful to our readers. But I will try to point it out when I can. Take good care. Xo, Lex

  2. Hello all, I have also never commented previously, I never felt compelled to comment. I always came to your blog looking for fashion tips. The last couple of weeks I have been keeping up to date with your posts and I have appreciated reading how you all feel. I absolutely loved this video and greatly appreciate you posting it and helping to get our message out. As a mother to a 14 year old black boy who could never hurt a fly, literally he can never hurt a fly in our house, this is exactly how I feel. How can my precious, sweet boy be seen as a threat?

    If I can be honest, I feel that this interview could have done without the “fashion” questions such as what’s her favorite outfit, what’s her favorite purse and beauty item. I understand you are mainly a fashion, lifestyle blog but with serious issues like these you can leave those types of question out of your interview and no one would be upset.

    • Hi, Griselda! Welcome to the comments :-)! Two things: 1) After we watched the video, and looked further into Lauryn, we felt like she was an interesting person and a badass in general, and wanted to feature her for that reason. If you notice, most of our Q&As all start with the same questions, and then branch into that person’s “speciality” or the reason we want to interview them. 2) I’m jumping in because I often argue that when we’re featuring BIPOC and discussing race, we feature the whole human person, not just the part of them that’s educating folx about race (so you can blame me). Humans are complex, and not only do we want all people to be presented in their full humanness, but we also want to give readers an “entryway” into connecting with another person. I think if we wanted only to focus on the issue of the perception of black boys that would have been a different article — more like an Unpacking, which wasn’t the goal here. And thank you for commenting and sharing your feelings. Even though Goose is a girl, and not only is she sweet and polite and generally soft-spoken, she’s also light-skinned; yet I still panic whenever she dances or gets too loud or too silly or pulls her hoodie up. I have a couple articles related to that in some upcoming posts. Take good care. Xo, Lex

  3. “Here are two questions I would ask you and all those who live “In a Town That’s Mostly White”, particularly one of privilege…

    Is your town a reflection of the world you want your child to know?
    Are you willing to exchange your privilege for Justice?”

    THIS is easily the best answer to this question I’ve ever heard. I just applaud the honestly and wisdom here, because it’s probably not the answer most white people want, but it is so very much the one we need.

  4. I train in a combat sport where the vast majority of my training partners are men, mostly young men but some older men too. Many of them black. These men are kind, funny, thoughtful, irreverent, nerdy, smart, and human just like the rest of us. These men are fathers, sons, husbands, brothers, have aspirations, career drive, motivation to train in their sport.

    Because this is a combat sport, we have to trust one another with our physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing. We have to challenge one another, uplift one another, encourage one another, especially on the rough days. These men, who I train with daily, are *there* for me and I am *there* for them. I’m a 42 year old white woman, am a bit of the group mom, and it is incredibly painful to worry about these men.

    The pain that I see that mothers, wives, sisters, and the men themselves experience when they are seen as threatening and are treated as such daily is heartbreaking. The pain in this video is palpable and overwhelming.

    Standing with you and working to right the wrongs is what we should *all* be doing. Peoples lives depend upon it. We need to fight and do better NOW.

  5. Men in general to me are a threat. I am a distance runner and I can not tell you how many times I have been harassed by men while I was out running. And I can tell you of all those times, it was never a black man.

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