We have come to a time in our family when we have started to give some of our children some freedoms, some unsupervised play time. We can no longer be there wherever they go, watching them.
And I’m terrified.
My younger son just turned 10 a month ago and he’s asking for some privileges, like riding his bike alone in our neighborhood. But he’s not the typical white bread American kid; he’s black… dark black, and in the eyes of others, he’s perceived as a threat.
So far I’m letting him go to and from school alone in his bike, and sometimes in the afternoon he goes to the playground to play basketball or soccer.
We decided to give him a simple cellphone so he can call in case of an emergency, but that’s all the protection I can offer him. I can’t shield him anymore of nasty looks, insults, or suspicion from neighbors and police.
He still looks young for his age, and that’s a plus, but sooner than later he will become a full blown teenager and every move he makes will be judged with a different set of rules than those applied to his white peers.
Recent news are making me more and more afraid of what can happen to him if he interacts with police; a black teen with a immature brain, fast talking, invincible…
We are starting to see flashes of his future adolescent personality, and I’m trembling.
He has always been an impulsive boy, a result of trauma suffered as a young child in Ethiopia, and we have learned to navigate his mood swings to calm him down and teach him about controlling feelings he sometimes doesn’t understand.
But we are his parents, we know him. We know he is a loving kid, funny and caring, that has no trace of meanness in him. We know he would never hurt anyone.
But will the police be able to see that? Will the authority, who perceive the most innocent behavior in black people as a threat, understand that?
Countless recent examples show the contrary.
If the police can knock down a grandfather who was just walking peacefully and leave him paralyzed, what chances has a young black kid?
The disturbing video that shows how Sureshbhai Patel was thrown to the floor is a proof that no black male is safe anymore.
Nothing like this could have ever happened to my father, a white blue-eyed man, who used to walk our neighborhood when he visited us years ago. He was also here to meet his grandson, he also couldn’t speak English, he also didn’t carry a gun.
I never felt he was in danger then.
Now I fear for my black son’s safety…