My White Privilege Stopped Me From Seeing That Toy Guns Are A Life Or Death Issue

By  | 

Screen Shot 2014-12-08 at 1.16.43 PMMost parents, at some point, have the debate about whether or not they should allow their children — in particular, their sons — to play with toy weapons. I remember having lots of discussions with other moms about that when my son was about two or three, and deciding that, for the most part, I didn’t care. How lucky I was, to be able to make that decision in such a lackadaisical way. And how ignorant I was for not seeing that until recently.

When the subject of violent toys came up, I would proudly and confidently tell people that I was cool with my son playing with toy swords and violent video games because I knew my son and believed in my ability to teach him right from wrong. I’m not uptight like some other parents are, I thought, I am not going to over-react to something that is used for pretend play. But of course, what what the murder of Tamir RIce has made very obvious to me, is that the other parents I was thinking about were other white parents. Because for parents of black sons, that choice that I made without a second thought could get their child killed.

Most of my predominantly white, liberal friends were firmly against having them in their homes. We talked about our concerns that fake weapons, even ones that are clearly meant for children, promote violence. That they would teach our sons that hurting people is a game, and that they would start acting out towards other children. We were so laughably earnest about it. What I realize now is that those kinds of concerns are ones that I can only afford to have because my son is white.

I worry about my child becoming violent, while others worry that their children will become the victims of that violence. I worry about getting a call from my child’s school telling me that he punched another kid, and parents of black children worry about getting a call from the police telling them that their child is dead. I am the parent of the possible perpetrator, and they are parents of the possible victim.

On Sunday, activists destroyed toy guns outside Cudell Recreation Center in Cleveland, where twelve-year-old Tamir Rice was killed in November by a police officer. The group, called The Outcast Voter’s League, wants to send a message to legislators that realistic toy guns should be banned. These toys are so realistic that, as OVL president Frank Matthews told Fox 8:

“If I put this one in my band, I could rob any person if I have the right demeanor, if I have the right look, and if a child has the right look or demeanor, they could make you think it’s a real gun,” he said.

And he is absolutely right. Why are toy guns that look like real guns even an option? It’s not like making a baby doll that pees and says “Mama,” it’s making something for kids to play with that looks like a weapon that is used to kill other people. Kids are creative — give them a polka-dotted gun and let them use their imaginations. There is no reason in the world that these toys should be sold unless the possible consequences don’t matter to the people who produce them.

OVL plans to protest by smashing and burning toy guns across all fifty states during the next thirteen months. On December 13th, the Cleveland Boys and Girls Club will give kids a free comic book in exchange for their toy guns. These are the kinds of events that all parents should throw our support behind. Because even if it’s not a matter of life and death for our child, it is for someone else’s.

(Image: Twitter)