I Don’t Know How…
Posted on August 13, 2017
My 9 year-old son and a buddy got in a tussle tonight over whose paper airplane flew the furthest. They shoved each other a bit. Boy stuff. Apologies were made and accepted. The boys were over it before it was over.
Except I couldn’t help but see it the way others might have–my multiracial (read: black) son pushing his white friend down. My kid is tall and brawny for his age–a 9 year-old who wears 14 year-old clothes and a men’s size 8 shoes.
I know how this reads to a stranger.
A stranger, God forbid, a cop, doesn’t read the situation as young boys doing what they do. Instead, he sees the images stained into his consciousness by a lifetime in American society.
I worry that the cop sees something that he should handle. And he doesn’t look for me, the blonde lady, sitting nearby. He doesn’t ruffle the boys’ hair and send them back to mama. He intervenes.
This is my worst nightmare. Something horrible and permanent made of the gossamer of childhood tempers.
I am scared because I have black sons. As I type these words my stomach is in knots and my head aches.
On this night of white nationalist violence in Charlottesville, VA, I couldn’t stop myself from seeing the boys’ normal, childhood scuffle, the way a stranger might. And that terrifies me.
We adopted our son in 2008 when we believed that America was moving boldly past our racist history. Now, in 2017, it seems we are careening back toward the worst of our instincts.
I can analyze this situation, talk about the paper-thin, dog-whistling and ridiculous, inadequate response from the White House. That story is out there.
I’ll just tell you what it feels like. It feels fucking terrible. It feels like my son and his buddy, both of whom I love madly, will face different consenquences for the same behavior.
I somehow have to figure out how to teach my son how to live safely in this world without making himself small.
I have no idea how.