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Tashia James: I want my son to be seen for his kind character

After a lifetime of forgetting to feed fish, failing to water plants, and returning infants their caretakers the moment they cried or soiled their diapers, I was positive motherhood was not going to be a part of my story.

 The universe had a different plan for me at age of 24 when my son arrived to change my life. He is a compassionate, laid back and outgoing 12-year-old that loves performing in theatrical plays, video gaming, and is affectionately known as “The Boy.”

Over the past 5 months of social distancing, being in quarantine — or “Coronacation” as The Boy calls this experience — it has been amazing not to have to rush from work to taxi him between activities or my various side jobs. We have had an opportunity to reconnect with each other. We spent quite a bit of time playing games, bingeing Netflix series, baking, and watching coverage of current events.

During the games we reminisced about our friends, family, and hilarious moments we shared together. We just enjoyed each other’s company. We just absorbed the news coverage of the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and unrest across the United States without a word uttered between us. We both sat in silence trying to find the words to convey our feelings to each other, words that could express our awareness and our fears, or words of comfort that may sooth the others unspoken grief.

The Boy began to proclaim that, “I will never be the one…”, but I cut him off before he could say another word. I know that his future could be stolen in a moment by the knee of a police officer, by the bullet from any gun, or by any other circumstance I cannot bear to imagine.

It is moments like this as a Black woman raising a Black child that I have to choose whether to shelter and protect him from the ugliness in the world or to be the one that exposes him to injustices and prejudices that he may experience as a Black man.

I have instilled in my son good manners, respect for others, and a strong moral compass, which I hope leads him to a bright future and long life. It was the death of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy that was shot and killed while playing alone in a park with to gun, that made me very aware that my son could be killed by the police at any age.

With Tamir’s death, I decided not to allow my son to play with toy guns, not even water guns. After the death of Trayvon Martin, I decided that I would teach my son to stay on the sidewalk and not to take the shortcut between houses. Ahmaud Arbery’s death helped my son recognize that if he feels uncomfortable walking past a house to go a different way.

I believe that most parents want to see their children become adults and to achieve their dreams. As a Black mother, I hope that the lessons I have taught my son will prevent him from having his last moments be filled with fear, his death televised for the world to witness, or that his life be ended prematurely through violence.

I just want my son to be seen for his kind character and not as a threat because of his beautiful Black skin.

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