Around my house, Monday nights belong to my 2 year old nephew. My sister works late, so my husband picks him up at daycare, and we spend the evening doing the parent routine of dinner, playtime –usually playdoh- bath time, book and bed.
As I lay down with him tonight, I couldn’t help but reflect on this blog, and think about what he will have to deal with.
My nephew is a doe eyed little imp, with the sweetest disposition and a very kind heart.
Yet, I already see perception shifting around him. As an infant White people would stop us on the street to coo at him. Though his looks have not changed much, a haircut just before his second birthday did away with the baby, and let the little boy come forth. I noticed the change in people right away; they either ignore him, or look at him suspect. A two year old?! What is it they see? And what will we have to make him compromise/sacrifice to keep him safe. His innocence? His belief in a fair world? His freedom of expression?
I was born here, educated here, speak both languages, and am a woman, thus I tend to deal with more systemic problems than in your face racism. For a male however, particularly a darker skinned male, life can be constant harassment and oppression. It seems like whenever someone feels the need to kick someone around to feel good about themselves, the Black male is a favorite target. This seems particularly true of the police, from Anthony Griffen – shot in the back while in hand cuffs -on down. That all of these stories end with blaming the victim means there is no deterrent from using our children as target practice.
How can you raise a child to feel strong and free when this is the reality of their world? No, not everybody is out to get them. But the world makes it so easy for this kind of evil to hide within their ranks that you have to always be prepared for the unexpected.
A Black police officer asked me once why I was so distrustful, even of him. He wanted me to know not all cops are assholes. He did not have to tell me that. My grandfather was a police office in Barbados, and an “uncle” was Chief of Police in Las Vegas. I explained that I had no idea who the good ones are and who the bad ones are. Moreover, the officers within the ranks know very well, yet they never speak up. That makes them all at least suspect, at worst culpable, my books. After my years in community development I now know some officers I would go so far as to say I trust, but even still, I wouldn’t risk my nephew’s life on them.
I would love to tell my nephew the fairy-tale other parents get to tell their children; keep your nose clean and you will never have to worry. Those children will never know what it is to be stopped for driving while Black, to have the police called on them for using a bathroom or selling lemonade, or have people assume they stole something because “it’s too good for you”. Instead I get to tell him things like, the more successful he is then more they will want to fuck with him so as to , “keep him in his place”. Worst yet, I will have to teach him how to redirect his rightful indignation so that he can get over, rather than get plowed under.
Then again, maybe global warming will have the side effect of leveling the playing field and making us all band together for survival – how’s that for desperation!