June 30, 2014

The Officer Said My Three Boys 'Fit the Description'

Last week, while preparing dinner, my youngest son came up to me and said "Mommy, we were racially profiled today." My heart stopped.

I immediately called his older brothers into the kitchen to ask what happened. My oldest began "Mommy, well I don't think he raically profiled us". "Who", I questioned. "Oh, the cop who stopped us."

Cops?
 
What?
 
How?
 
The boys were walking to church camp.  It's not even a 1/4 mile from our house.  Cops?  My kids?  OH MY GOD!
 
My precious twin sons have been blessed with height. By the 5th grade they were nearly 6' tall despite being among the youngest in their class. I often joke "they're tall and thin like their mom". It always gets a smile given at 5'3" and ___ lbs., I'm neither tall nor thin. 

When I drop the kids off at school, the youngest is escorted across the crosswalk by a crossing guard and must walk while the older two are dropped off at the school some 100-125 ft. further. There's no parking lot and they have to cross sans crossing guard. They look both ways and run across the street. I roll down the car window and in my mommy voice yell "Don't run". Not because I fear some car will run into my kids. I mean we're in the school carpool lane and there hasn't been an accident there like ever. It's not because I fear they'll trip and fall. I mean the twins may have inherited my height and weight *jokey-joke* but thank goodness they didn't inherit my clumsiness. I had amassed 3 busted chins from tripping by the time I was their age. I just don't want them to run because they're so tall it looks awkward. 

"Walk boys. Walk." I yell. "Walk boys. Walk." The twins are so careful in all that they do. When they leave the library, they stop at the curb, look both ways and race to the car. Again I roll down the windows yelling "Walk boys walk" catching them midstride. I guess I didn't fear them running until February 26, 2012. The day I heard of the shooting of Trayvon Martin. I remember seeing social media ablaze with news of a black teenager about 6' and about 170 lbs. or so walking home in the dark of night wearing a dark colored hoodie. A stranger approached him and he ran.
 
Black.
    Teenager.
        6' tall.
            about 160 lbs.
                Hoodie.
                    Running.
 
Black.
    Teenager.
        6' tall.
            about 160 lbs.
                Hoodie.
                    Running.
 
These visions echoed in my head once my youngest shared his story. Granted it was 9 o'clock in the morning when the boys left our house to walk just a few blocks up the street to the church camp where they serve as Youth Camp Counselors. The cop didn't see my sons as the AP honor roll students they are nor the recently baptized exemplary members of our church, he saw 3 Black men. He didn't know I always tell my sons to walk together. He didn't know they had a friend who is an only child whose mom asked if she could drop him off so he could walk with his friends (my sons). The cop didn't know the twins had walked ahead of the younger two and the younger two were simply running to catch up. He just saw four Black men running.
 
My heart broke when my kids told me the story. My heart ached even more when they stood in front of me confused by the tears which began to flow from my eyes. Their innocence...gone...forever.
 
This morning as we prepared to get ready for church, my husband stood before me feeling the air of my discontent. I didn't want to tell him because it's a topic we've disagreed on for years. However, when he asked me what was on my mind I asked him if the boys had talked to him about "the incident". "The incident", he replied. This was a conversation I didn't want to have with my husband as anytime the topic comes up he regresses to the time when he was pulled over by the police and had a gun pulled on him because he "fit the description". It was a conversation I didn't want to have because in my little innocent heart of hearts I never imagined my kids would ever "fit the description". 
 
This was a talk only an African American dad could have with his African American sons. Yeah, an African American woman could have the discussion if she had to but who better, in my opinion, to explain the experience than a Black man, a father to his son. There is no way our experiences as women could ever equate to those of men. However, this was a talk my husband had to have with our sons. A talk he knew one day he would have to have. Here I am thinking the worst talk I'd ever have to have with my children would be about the birds and the bees. Now here we sit...face in palm...struggling for words.
 
I guess it was a talk that was long overdue.  Perhaps one Hubby and I should have had with our sons, Los Tres Amigos, soon after Trayvon Martin was shot, I guess.  I don't know if there's ever an appropriate time to have this discussion... do you?




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