Out in the Open

How race and politics threaten to divide one family

Panama Jackson identifies as black. His mom is white. And, at this point, Jackson is struggling to maintain a relationship with her because their politics and worldviews are so far apart.
Over the past summer, Panama Jackson found himself arguing with his mother about U.S. President Donald Trump and how he's affected both their life experiences. (Alecia Renece Photos)

Panama Jackson is struggling to keep his mother in his life and with how far to let her in. 

Jackson's complicated relationship with his mother is mostly about two things: Race and politics.

Jackson's mother is white. She's also a Donald Trump supporter. Jackson's father is black. That's how Jackson identifies too. And, he says, he finds Trump "extremely problematic."

It all came to a head this past summer when one of their political arguments revolved around Jackson's mom wearing a "Make America Great Again" t-shirt while visiting Jackson and his family.

"What really set everything off was, we got into the car and she's like, 'Why does this offend you?'" says Jackson.

"As a black person in America, the ideology of making America great again for a group of people who it was never that great to begin with, is offensive."

Jackson says things got so heated in the car ride home that he decided to stop talking to his mom. He avoided her calls and stopped speaking to her altogether for about three months.

As a black person in America, the ideology of making America great again for a group of people who it was never that great to begin with, is offensive.- Panama Jackson

"My problem [with her] is the blatant disregard for other perspectives," he says.

"I also just don't entirely get how this woman, who at one point was married to a black man, has black children, can be so far on the other end of the spectrum at this point where she's almost dismissive of the fact that racism exists. How does that pendulum swing happen?" he says. 

Although their relationship is complicated and difficult for him, at this point, Jackson says he can't cut his mom out of his life completely. 

Estranging a piece of yourself

As a parent, Jackson can't imagine how hard it would be to not speak to one of his children, or to not know that they're ok.

"I can't do that to my mother," he says.

And, although he says it is ok to cut toxic people out of your life, Jackson's decided to maintain a relationship with his mother by essentially estranging a piece of himself from her.

"There's a distance there for me that I need to maintain because I can't be my whole self with my mom," he says.

"I can't talk about things that are bothering me. I can't talk about things that are affecting me, or things I feel are affecting my community in a negative fashion. I can't have those conversations with her because they're going to go the wrong way."

This story appears in the Out in the Open episode "Estrangement".