My son Rashaad and I have reached new milestones in our journey together. We were standing next to each other as I picked out freshly cut high top fade, when I realized that my arms had to stretch a little higher. The Boy is taller than me and it seemed to have happened over night.
We have also reached another two other milestones that I hoped would not come so soon, but as a mother raising a Black son I knew this day would eventually be our reality. The police knocked on my door looking for The Boy. Two truancy officers were looking for my son, who missed three consecutive days of school while attending virtual school. The female officer demanded to see my son and explained that “students like him do not see the importance of attending school.”
Before explaining where my son was and why he was absent I sought clarity on her statement. My questions caught her off guard, caused her to become nervous, and she suddenly fell silent. The male officer attempted to justify but his comments did not diffuse my fury. When they left our home, Rashaad was more than just a name and an ID number on their checklist. His absences were the result of a clerical error that could have been remedied with a phone call or an email, but instead police officers were sent to our home. The truancy officers and attendance secretary all learned that Rashaad has a fierce social justice advocate and attentive mother standing behind him that day.
In addition to having the police at our home, my 13-year-old son is no longer seen as a child when strangers or acquaintances encounter him. He is viewed as “that Black guy” instead of as a child playing with other children. To some people he is now a threat and someone to be feared. He is seen as an adult by those that do not know him, and to be quite honest that scares me more. I said it in my first Mommy Blog and I’ll say it again, I just want my son to be seen for his character and not just for the color of his beautiful brown skin.
Every time The Boy walks out of our front door I worry that something may happen to him, and I do not relax until I hear the front door being flung open. On Nov. 22, 2014, when my son was 2 years old, Tamir Rice was shot and killed at the age of 12 while playing in a Cleveland playground with a toy gun. The officer that killed Tamir did not ask any questions or truly observe the situation before firing his weapon. That officer did not see the innocence of a 12-year-old playing alone in a park; he only saw a threat.
Rashaad and I have surrounded ourselves with a village of people that look out for him, protect him, and speak up when they feel that he is being treated unfairly. The parents are truly allies to us. They speak up and speak out against social injustices, and they are teaching their children to do the same thing.
Even with this group of allies, I still have to take extra measures to keep my child safe! After a negative encounter in a friend’s neighborhood, I have decided that Rashaad should be carrying a state-issued photo ID. No, the photo ID will not stop a bullet or prevent him from being viewed as an adult, but it may just help other people see him for exactly what he is a child. I don’t want his childhood cut short because he is mistaken as an adult. I want him to be able to play outside, for him to hold on to his innocent and unjaded view of the world, and remain carefree as long as possible.
To view stories and lessons from our other Mommy Bloggers based in southcentral Pennsylvania, https://www.cpbj.com/mommy-blogs/