America 2017: 8-Year-Old Was Hanged For Being Black. He Could Have Been My Son.

by Sa'iyda Shabazz
Originally Published: 
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This week, an 8-year-old biracial boy in Claremont, New Hampshire, was hanged by a group of white teenagers. In America, in 2017.

He survived. Thank Goodness.

As a mother to a biracial son, this story shook me to my core. That boy, that innocent, sweet boy could have been mine.

I am always hyperaware of how people are perceiving my son, not because I’m paranoid, but because things like this can happen. They do happen. Clearly.

We live in a diverse neighborhood in Los Angeles, but racists are everywhere. As a black woman, I know that. I’ve always known that, but I’m more acutely aware now that I’m a mother. My son isn’t in school just yet, but he will be soon and I will not be able to protect him the way I can now. That is terrifying when you hear stories like this. When the hanging incident happened, there were no adults around.

Stuff like this likely happens in schoolyards and playgrounds all over the country, but we never hear about it.

My son is 4. I haven’t figured out how to explain to him that these things happen because he’s so young and is unable to comprehend the magnitude of the issue. But explaining to an 8-year-old? Who is aware that he is different, but likely has no idea that may affect how he’s treated by his peers. We shouldn’t have to tell our kids that other people will harass them, assault them or worse yet, kill them simply because of their skin color. Especially not in 2017. But the reality is that we do. Because things like this keep happening.

I’m terrified for my child.

The worst part of all this? Other than the physical and emotional harm caused to that innocent little boy, it’s the fact that the police chief of their town is dismissing the very serious implications of this crime because the perpetrators are teenagers.

“We don’t want things to follow kids throughout their life,” he said in an interview. White supremacy and racism at it’s freaking finest, folks. When white men commit crimes, they are infantilized. We have seen it countless times. “Boys will be boys” is heavily implied in this case. As if several teenagers hanging a little kid by the neck is just a simple mistake. Just your regular, everyday, run of the mill roughhousing.

Are you fucking kidding me? It’s a crime. A very serious crime. This child could have died.

If these kids were black, this story would be much different. You know it’s true. And that’s the biggest problem with situations like this in America. There is a double standard when it comes to who’s considered a “kid” when a crime is committed.

When Tamir Rice was gunned down by police officers, he was considered a threat because he was a black man with a gun. He was a 12-year-old child with a toy on a playground. He was shot dead in two seconds. Two. Fucking. Seconds.

Michael Brown was a thief and a thug. He was an 18-year-old who was shot at least six times, including twice in his head.

Trayvon Martin was a menacing, dangerous black man. He was a boy in a hoodie with Skittles in his hand. He was also shot dead, and his murderer, George Zimmerman, walks free.

But these boys, and other white men like them (cough, Brock Turner) are considered “good” kids who just made a mistake.

No. These “good” boys committed crimes. Violent crimes. Including the teenagers who attempted to hang an 8-year-old.

But white supremacy will have you believe the opposite. White supremacy protects white men at all costs.

Because everyone involved in this current case is a minor, the police chief made it clear that no additional information will be released regarding charges or pending prosecution. Given the way we’ve seen these things play out in the past, it is doubtful they will be held liable in any regard.

Given what has happened, the family is looking to move out of their town because they no longer feel safe. What a shame. They are the victims, but they are forced out of their home, jobs, school to protect themselves. It’s bullshit.

Racism knows no boundaries. Racism doesn’t care if you’re a good person; it only cares that you’re black or brown. It is infuriating that racism and hate is still at the forefront of our lives as Americans. It breaks my heart that I have to explain to my 4-year-old biracial son that people aren’t going to want to be his friend, or worse may want to cause him harm, because of the color of his skin or because of the color of my skin.

Since November, it seems that things are getting worse, and that these violent acts are coming to the forefront more often. White supremacists are feeling emboldened and empowered by our current administration. Many times, these white terrorists are let off the hook simply because they’re white. Racism and racial-based violence isn’t something inherent. It is something that is learned and something that is taught. And those of you in positions where your children can be the aggressors need to do better by your children. White folks, you need to take action here. Collect your people. You must. Because children’s lives, my son’s life, depend on it.

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