I’m going to try, really hard, to put my thoughts down in a way that makes sense. I would encourage you to read what’s written with an open mind and a heart of compassion and understanding. Okay?
I’m white. My son is bi-racial; his dad is black. Though, he isn’t bi-racial to the eyes of those who don’t know that I’m his mom because he doesn’t look bi-racial. At all. It’s still a bit funny to watch people’s expression when they make the connection between the two of us. We both find it humorous.
In the area where I grew up, at least when I moved away 10 years ago, it was still pretty racially segregated. It’s surprising that it’s like that since it’s one of the major metropolitan areas in the country, but that’s how it’s always been there. I grew up in the city and moved to the suburbs just before starting high school. I hated it. Eventually, I found my way back to the city – to my parents’ displeasure. They felt like my being in the suburbs was safer – and granted, on paper, it was safer – but I was unhappy there and it wasn’t any safer in the suburbs. The crimes were just different there. Instead of a mugging or shooting, it was a rape by a “popular kid” who would ruin your life if you told. Instead of a carjacking, it was high end cocaine deals going down in the hallways of the high school. Instead of breaking and entering, it was convincing some poor sap to do something illegal so that he could fit in with the cool kids. Instead of gangbanging, it was the “mean girls” shaming anyone in their way – sometimes for four solid years with no end in sight for the person on the receiving end. Forgive me, if while reading comments and posts lately from people about how they ALL raised perfect children, for being a little bit cynical about the whole thing. Yes, parenting has so much to do with how our children behave as they get older, but even kids raised in seemingly good homes make a lot of mistakes.
Do you know that I almost killed a man? Seriously. I was raised in a two parent home, in the suburbs (for my teenage years), as part of a middle class family. I should have it all together, right? Yeah… no. I was enraged, angry, furious, etc… I acted in a way that wasn’t rational, not even for me. Thankfully, a friend was there and stopped me – but in just a matter of moments and unbridled rage – my whole life could have changed and been different. It’s funny how anger can drive us to do things that we don’t even think through fully. We don’t consider consequences, we don’t think about the big picture. We’re in the moment. We’re hot-blooded and irate.
Which brings me to my whole purpose for this post…
In my lifetime, I have seen racism first hand, up close and personal. I’ve seen police abuse their authority for NO REASON AT ALL. I’ve also seen police who treated everyone with respect and dignity. Let’s talk a few examples…
When I was about 19 or 20, I went with some friends (4 black males) to a local strip mall, in an almost entirely white community, next to a high school that had an open campus lunch. The students from the high school would all linger around the strip mall, sitting along the benches, grabbing food, skateboarding, etc… A couple of my friends were dating students from the high school. We were all visiting. I would say there were approximately 250-300 students and young people. No one was misbehaving. A few minutes later, the police showed up and began to question the black males I was with, pushing them against the walls to search them, throwing them down to the ground, and eventually arresting them. For loitering. I approached the officers, tried to explain that we were ALL loitering and that we were all together. I wasn’t arrested. Nor were the other 250-300 people doing the same.exact.thing. uh. Okay. That just happened.
I was pulled over when I was 21, while driving down the freeway – outside of the city limits – with my son’s dad and his cousin. The officer had me exit the vehicle, walk to the back of the car, and then asked me, with a very concerned look on his face, “are you okay? Are you being held against your will? Do you mean to be with these men?” I was visibly pregnant and explained that the guy is the passenger seat was my boyfriend and the father of my baby. His face changed and he went and wrote me a speeding ticket for 5 miles over the speed limit. uh. Okay. Yeah, I mean I guess I was speeding.
Later, when my son was a bit older, I was pulled over while driving from northern VA to MI for a visit. I wasn’t speeding. I was pulled out of the car again and told that we were pulled over because the road we were on (a major tollway) was a known drug smuggling route and he wanted a closer look. uh. Okay. So were you pulling over EVERY car, or just those with young black men in them?
My son has countless stories… he’s been harassed by police while walking down the street, walking through the mall, he’s followed in most stores he walks through. My kid is not a thief. He’s never been arrested. He works his tail off so that he can buy nice things and then is treated like a thug when he walks through a higher end store. For the record, I’ve never been followed in a store when I’ve been alone. I have been followed when my son is with me, though.
A couple of years ago, my son was at a 4th of July celebration at a local park. While he was there, a guy opened fire and shot at another guy, in the general vicinity of where my son was sitting. Of course, he ran. He was tackled, roughed up, punched, and kicked by police officers as he was brought down and held face down in the concrete. There were visible abrasions on his face and body. My son, then a minor, was held for questioning, not able to call his parent, for hours. He continually asked if he could call me and they refused to let him. By then, I had heard all sorts of rumors – he was shot, he shot someone, the police arrested him, etc… I called everywhere and received no answers. Eventually, I made my way to the local police station, after a sergeant called me to say they had him. In the end, my son served as a witness, but I’ll be darned if part of me wasn’t so mad for him that I didn’t want him to help. I knew what he had to do and should do… but I was furious that he had to go through that kind of treatment and then come around to play nice alongside the same officers who were punching him in the face. Why? Oh, that’s right… he was scared out of his mind because some dude was shooting people and then he was tackled from behind and maybe not completely aware of what was happening.
Guys, I know this post is long and I’m not going to express any opinions about some of the things happening around our country right now. I don’t think that’s relevant to what I’m trying to share from MY OWN EXPERIENCES. What I do know is that I have a ton of respect for all levels of law enforcement. Every day they choose to put their lives on the line for my safety. I appreciate anyone who can be that passionate about their work and do it for diddly squat salaries. My son has been taught to be a law abiding citizen. He’s been taught to respect the authority of police officers. He’s been taught to obey when he’s asked to do something. Okay?
With that said, some people have no idea what it feels like to be continuously singled out, maybe for no reason at all, and then wonder if the person singling them out is one of the good guys or bad guys. Many of us can say that if a person just follows the law, there will be no problem. Well, that isn’t true. Not for my kid anyway and not for several other young, black males that I know. Walking down the street is wrong. Driving down the street is wrong. Laughing too loud is wrong. Sagging pants is wrong (I hate sagging pants as much as the next person, but I also hate booty shorts with butt cheeks hanging out the bottom or fishnet tops with just a bra underneath and I don’t see them getting stopped in the mall to say that if “they don’t attend to and fix their attire, they’ll be escorted out.”
There is a problem. And I hate it. I also don’t know how to fix it. All I can do is teach my son to be above reproach all the time. All I can do is tell him that some things are gonna be a little bit suckier for you than the next guy. But keep pushing forward. Keep doing right. Keep being better. Keep working hard. Be kind. Be responsible. Be considerate. Don’t be a stereotype. Don’t be the expectation of someone else’s thoughts. Don’t hate a whole job title because of a few bad apples.
Friends, please be gentle in your responses to all of these hot topics lately. Remember that we don’t know what it’s like to walk in someone else’s shoes. When I see my friends jumping on the race-baiting bandwagon trying to convince us that these kinds of things don’t really happen, let me assure you that they do. Not always. But they do happen. We would be wiser to stop saying that “they should have raised better kids” and to, instead, come alongside those who are fatherless, hopeless, lost, hurt, angry, and confused. Only light can drive out darkness. How are we being light to others if all we do is talk about how awful the parenting is or how the person got what they deserved or the world is a better place? Gosh, that could be MY kid. Or yours. Where has our quest for peace gone? Where has our softness for those who are hurting gone? Where has our heart to be salt and light gone?
I don’t support acting out in vandalism or looting or rioting. Not at all. I think it’s careless and serves no purpose in the long run. However, I DO see how the frustration can build up to a point that anger just bubbles over. Remember, up there ^^^, when I said I almost killed a man? It’s been proven that bad behavior promotes more bad behavior. So, in contrast, shouldn’t good behavior promote good behavior? How are we promoting good behavior in the communities that are hurting? How are we supporting parents who need some help? Are we looking outside of our own spaces and accepting the challenge to become a helper to someone that might be different than us – whether it’s socially, racially, economically?
Thanks for sticking with me through this very long dialogue that’s just been part of my own frustrations. Like I said before, I don’t know all the answers. In fact, I know very few. I know that there is so much more going on in the hearts of other people, though, that I want to be more attentive to and help someone who feels hopeless find the needed hope to move on in life. Join me in this journey? Find someone, who is not like you, and be present for that person. There is blessing in unity.
Also, please listen to Jefferson Bethke’s take on it. I think his idea and approach is pretty similar to where my own heart lies.