Yesterday, my only child turned 22. He’s not a baby anymore, but as any mother will attest, he’ll always be my baby.
From the day I found out that I was pregnant, I knew I was having a boy. I knew exactly what he would look like. I knew he would have my hair and eye colors, and I knew he would have his dad’s athletic build. I knew his skin tone would fall squarely between his dad’s and mine. I knew he would be funny. I knew he would be a phenomenal athlete and he is. What I didn’t know was that the greatest blessing God would ever bestow upon me would also be cursed merely because he is a black man.
Racism is at the deepest core of this country. It didn’t start yesterday. It’s ugliness has been documented from the beginning of time from the atrocity of slavery right up to the present-day slaughter of Black men at the hands of law enforcement. Don’t get it twisted — this is not a piece about bashing the police because you’ll never find me doing that. My family is filled with officers and I’m blessed to have many friends who are cops. I am just as concerned with him being taken out by his own as I am that the police or the KKK deciding to use him as a lesson.
My son is big. He’s a 6’ tall, 230 pound linebacker who plays for the University of Arkansas — Pine Bluff Golden Lions. He has dreadlocks. He has tattoos — lots of them. With all that in mind and, most importantly, because of the color of his skin, some consider him a threat. He’s not hostile, but he’s black. He’s not violent, yet he’s black.
See, because he’s black, in the eyes of some, he’ll always be a threat. I can’t help but think of some of the other “threats” that have caused fear in the minds of the police like Philando Castille, Walter Scott, and Charles Kinsey. Castille and Scott both died after traffic stops. Kinsey was wounded while lying in the street with his hands in the air. See why I’m terrified for my son?
The Ride Home
My child is a college student and, like most parents, I’m happy when he tells me that he’s coming home for the weekend. Ninety-nine percent of the time though, that happiness is replaced by a nagging fear. His coming home means that he has to drive. It means he’ll be “driving while black.” As the mother of a black man, here are a couple of the things his coming home means:
- He’ll be stopped for what should be a simple traffic issue and somehow end up as a hashtag on Twitter.
- He’ll stop at the wrong convenience store and end up being beaten to pieces by white supremacists who believe he has no right to be in their presence.
I make him send me his location so that I can “see” him drive home. I know there’s a certain stretch of highway where he’ll lose the cell signal so on my iPhone, it looks like he’s stuck. You know what else I can tell you? The exact number of minutes it will take him to travel that stretch, doing the speed limit. If I don’t see that car moving after 21 minutes, I start to panic.
My nephews have taken care to teach my son what to do and say during a traffic stop. They, themselves, are scared. None of them are animals, but there’s always the chance that they’ll be slaughtered like one.
All the Other Times
Understand that I know my child is also a target in his own community. No, I’m not talking about the area he lives in; I mean in the black male community as a whole. Black-on-black crime is absurd and it’s just as bad, if not worse, than the assault on black men from outside the community. I’ve heard of killings in the black community over everything from shoes to $5.
How sad is it that a mother will stand over a casket, looking down at her son whose life was snuffed out because of a dispute over $5?
Holding on to His Promise
I can’t be with my son 24/7. He is a grown man now who must live his own life and forge his own way in the world. I trust that God will be true to His word and keep my child covered. I keep him in front of God. I keep my brothers, nephew, cousins, and friends in front of God.
July 26, 1995 was the day I was blessed beyond measure. I just pray my son sees many more birthdays.