What I tell my African American son

My son was locked out of the house yesterday, in the middle of a snowstorm.

He called me at work to ask me to drive home and let him in. None of the neighbors we knew were home, and the neighbors across the street are brand new. So he had nowhere to go.

When I told my co-workers that I was leaving because my son was locked out, one mentioned that they used to climb in a window, or pry the door open with a credit card, when they were locked out.  And my reply was, “I can’t tell my son to do that”.

My son is African-American and he’s fourteen years old.

When we go shopping after school, I tell my son he has to leave his backpack in the car.

When he’s hungry in the grocery store and sees customers eat food they’ve yet to pay for, I tell him he can’t do the same.

When he wants to take a walk past dark with his friends, I tell him “no”.

If he bounces a ball in the sporting goods store, I make him stop.

He’s not allowed to play with guns that aren’t clearly Super Soakers.

If we’re stopped by the police because our headlight is out, I say, “Remember what I taught you.”

Because my son is African American and he’s fourteen years old.

When my son couldn’t get in the house, he walked down the street to the local drugstore, to seek refuge from the relentless snow.

I drove to the drugstore as fast as I could and when I was near, I called to let him know I’d be there soon. I suggested he stay inside until I arrived, but when I got there he was out in the snow.

When he got in the car, shivering and wet, I asked why he didn’t wait inside.

His reply was, “Mom. The people who work there kept staring at me and following me around. It was like they thought I was going to steal something. I felt like I didn’t belong there.  It was awful. And I had no money on me to prove I wasn’t a thief.”

Because my son is African American and he’s fourteen years old, he can’t just be a teenager shopping for acne cream. He has to make a purchase to prove he’s not a thief.

Those who know me will tell you that I’m not one to claim every scuffle with the police is police brutality. And I’m not one who sees racism in every unique article of designer clothing or every news anchor’s slip of the tongue.

But I do remember moving to a nice neighborhood as a child, and being awaken during the night by a cross burning in the front yard and the “N” word carved into the fresh concrete sidewalk that led to our front door.  And I remember the nails in our tires, every morning when mom tried to leave for work.

I remember the neighbors staring at us, like we didn’t belong. And I remember, for our safety, mom told us things that other moms didn’t have to tell their children.

Yes. That was over forty years ago. That was then and this is now.  But just because you’re uncomfortable talking about it, doesn’t mean it no longer exists.

Accept it. Talk about it. Change it. And don’t get caught outside in a snowstorm.

 

Follow me at lovingmiddleagedlife.com

 

174 thoughts on “What I tell my African American son

  1. A few months ago I heard very loud knocking on my front door at 1 am. When I got the nerve to look out , there was a young African American girl. I opened the door and she told me that she missed her ride home from work and now her mom was out looking for her and she couldn’t get into her house. I brought her in, gave her something hot to drink and talked with her until her mom got home. I am an old white lady but I would never leave a child outside late at night, Her mom thanked me over and over, saying that her daughter could have gone to the wrong house and been in trouble. I don’t understand people.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. It is sad, I thought we had moved on as a society but I see that it’s all coming back again really it’s never left it was just covered for a little while until I’ll 45th president came into action it all came back again to the Forefront.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I too had to have the “talk” with my twin boys as well as in this day my daughter. Both of my twins are large guys but the larger one is the kindest,gentlest,soft heartedest but has been told on minor traffic stops not to try anything “big guy”. Just because of his stature not his actions. I pray for them every minute of every day. I checked in the regularly always hoping for the best. These talks are a must for every child of color period. Sad but true.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. The enemy is everywhere. This is good advice. I don’t let my son walk home alone after dark either. We’ve got an electronic lock just because I know he loses his keys often. I keep him close in stores or wherever because a lot of people are suspicious of young black men. My next talk is for him to pass this advice down to his kids. Because nothing will change with some people.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This makes me so sad!!! I just read a book by Jodi Picoult “small great things”. I really thought prejudice was not a big issue anymore!!! This book made me realize it was still here.😢 It’s so wrong!!!
    Thank God, He looks at the heart!! I guess people don’t realize they will have to answer to God one day for what we have done. I’m no saint but I will be more aware! 🙏

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Because English was one of my favorite subjects many decades ago, just so you know, there is a difference between prejudice & systemic racism. The latter is something we are unable to control or lash out onto other kinds of people, including most of all, white people. Thus, erasing the idea that there can be reverse-racism. We cannot effect the lives of people in this country like that. It was created by white people, for white people, because they control everything in this country and have become emboldened to get us killed with racism because of the rhetoric of -45 and his minions. Not a single law has been passed, but it’s quite clear that Jim Crow is rearing its ugly head without laws. It just took a dangerous man like Cheetolini to empower people to wield that evil back onto us in droves. I’m more than sad; I’m pissed. Never thought I’d live long enough to experience & be traumatized by racism again; yet, here I am … 61 years old, going through it again. Shit!

      Like

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