The Ferguson shooting and so many incidents like it scare me. I am the mother of four children. Three girls and one son. I call my son, “my son, my son, my golden one.” He has beautiful hopes and dreams for the future. When Barak Obama was first elected president my son said when he grew up, he would be president and Obama could be his vice president. In the years since his plans and life have remained lofty and good. My son is tall for his age. He is tall, intelligent, talkative and has a strong sense of right and wrong. He argues passionately to prove his points and to have his voice heard. In most contexts, these would all be wonderful things. But, this is 2014 in America and my son is a little black boy.
There are stories on the news almost every day about black on black crime. While those stories are scary, I don’t worry about them much. My son is a good boy. He is in school, does not commit crimes, and by all accounts has a bright and shining future. There are also stories on the news almost every day about black men and black boys who are shot and killed for doing nothing other than being black men and boys. These are the stories that terrify me.
Our family lives on the prestigious Main Line, a suburb of Philadelphia. It is one of the best communities in the world. He is a wonderful boy. That is not hyperbole, exaggeration or bragging on my part. It is a fact, there are witnesses and a myriad of tests, report cards and records to prove the fact. None of that will protect my son from being shot for walking down the street. None of that will protect my son if he decides to answer when questioned by a police officer and the officer does not like his tone, words or attitude.
I have spoken with wives, sisters, and friends of police officers. They tell me that being a police officer is a dangerous job and that officers are shot and killed by black men and black boys and so the officers must be careful. That may be true. But, what is also true is that when black men or black boys kill a police officer, those men and boys are caught, arrested, tried and sentenced to long jail terms. When police officers kill unarmed black men and black boys they do not go to jail. Instead, other police officers and people around the country rally around, defend the police officers and look for ways to justify their behavior.
This is a scary thing for a mother to know. It is even scarier to have to explain these realities to an 11-year-old boy. My son’s life is precious to me. His life is invaluable to me. He has gifts to offer the world that will make the world a better place. The world is better with him and will be worse off without him.
This weekend I was blessed to be able to move my daughter into her dorm room at the illustrious Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia. When we arrived on campus, we were greeted by a group of handsome, intelligent young men from Morehouse College who asked if we needed help. In seconds, they gathered our eight suitcases and bags carted them up a flight of stairs and placed them neatly in the door room. When they were done, they asked if there was anything else they could do to help. All over campus, the Morehouse men were helping their Spelman sisters move in and get acquainted with college life. Later, each Spelman woman will be assigned a Morehouse man as a brother and the two young people will help each other get through their college years.
One day my son will be a Morehouse man or a man at some good and wonderful college or university. When police officers look at him, will they see what I see? Will they see an intelligent, kind, tall, handsome, talented young man? Or will they simply see someplace of place bullets?