WHY I’M SCARED FOR MY BLACK BOYS

It was a sunny day at the park when suddenly HE appeared. HE was tall, “very” dark, and dressed in black from head to toe.  With a foreign accent, HE beckoned to two small children, and asked for high-fives. The children went. HE, a stranger, then reached down and picked up one of the children and turned to walk away. A concerned bystander, observed the interaction, and demanded that HE release the child. HE fled. The police were notified.

A young lady jogged around the park when suddenly she was accosted by an African-American man. He grabbed her arm, and yelled give me your phone b—ch. She filed a police report.

A woman was gardening in her front yard when two “creepy” guys passed by on their bikes. She said they were checking her out as she bent down. She was encouraged to file a police report.

On Monday, each of these incidents was reported in my community moms Facebook group. Moms expressed their justifiable outrage, concern, and fear. They were alarmed, partly because the incidents reminded them that even in our “safe,” predominantly White- but diverse, suburb, we are not insulated from crime. One mom’s response to the park incident was to ask if her preschooler could carry mace to school. She also inquired if the preschool could hire someone to chase any “not safe person.” Another mom commented that HE sounded like a person she once saw on the train, in part because he too, was tall with very dark skin; she asked the group if she should contact the authorities.

I felt the same way many of the moms felt. I share their concerns; we all want to protect our families from opportunistic criminals. However, I also know according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, in 2015 only 1% of the missing children were victims of nonfamily abductions. I know in 2014, there were only 77 robberies in my suburb which has a population of over 52,000. The statistics suggest that the concerns of the women in the Facebook group are largely unfounded.

As they continued to comment, I knew most could not identify with the additional worries I have as an African-American mom. They could not identify with my concerns about the racial-profiling and stereotyping that is due in part to similar stories and overreactions. They didn’t know that, as they talked amongst themselves, I worried about the safety of my husband and sons. Not just the worry that they will be victimized by criminals, but that they will be viewed through a lens of suspicion because they are African-American males. I worry they will be subjected to unfair scrutiny by our “neighbors,” and consequently the attention of the police, because they look “creepy” or “unsafe” due to their dark skin.

We chose to buy a home in our suburb in part because of its diversity, and yet, in spite of the diversity I constantly worry how my children will be perceived and treated. We’ve taken Max’s White friends with us to various activities and I worry that my husband will be subjected to questioning looks if he beckons those friends when they have strayed away. I worry if my boys behave the way other adolescent boys behave, and look too long at someone of the opposite sex, who happens to be gardening, they will be perceived as potential criminals and consequently, brought to the attention of the police. I worry that regardless of how nicely dressed or how they carry themselves they will always be viewed as threats.

My concerns are not unfounded. Studies and tests, such as the Implicit Association Test, indicate that many Americans harbor biases against African-Americans. The Chicago Police Accountability Task Force found in 2013, 46% of the traffic stops were of African-Americans, and during those stops, African-Americans were searched four times as often as White drivers, yet contraband was found on White drivers twice as often as African-Americans. The Task Force also stated, in 2014, 72% of street stops were of African-Americans, most were not arrested, ticketed, or taken to a police station.

I agree we must be cautious, but I hope along with teaching our children caution, we are teaching them that crime and skin color do not go hand in hand. Let’s make it clear that a bad experience with one person of color does not translate into every person of color being a potential criminal and worthy of suspicion.

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11 thoughts on “WHY I’M SCARED FOR MY BLACK BOYS

  1. OMG, you are right, Camille. I fight those feelings and pray for forgiveness each time those feelings creep into my mind. I know your family and I don’t know a finer one. How do we change this unfair perception. Racial bigotry is, unfortunately, a live in our community and in our country. It seems that it is getting worse instead of better. How do we stop it? What’s the answer? We must continue to keep talking and hearing each other. Thank you for another well written and thought provoking post.

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    1. Donna, thanks for reading! I think education and having open dialogues are key. I also think diversity is so important. I hope as people are exposed to people of other races and nationalities they become more open minded.

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  2. Once again or lives parallel. I too, fear for my son’s in this world, especially my twins because of how tall they are people may be intimidated by their height, because of their dark skin people may be frightened at first glance. I chose to raise them in nice diverse neighborhoods with other homeowners that I could only hope can get to know my family & understand that we are NOT criminals. I work in a field that is predominantly white males & I make sure to have this very conversation with my colleagues because I know open dialague between the races is very important. I currently live in a household full of black Men from my brother, nephew, my man & my children, as the only female, I constantly worry whenever they leave our home, will they be stereotyped? And when they do well they survive the interaction? I can only pray. ..
    Once again Camile, your writing is clear, informative & transparent. I love it! Writing is my first love.

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      1. So well said Camile! All we can do is PRAY!!! I’m still concerned about my son’s and they’re grown productive young men giving back to society. You & your husband just continue to do the Great job you’ve done thus far and God will do the Rest. 🙂

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    1. Thanks so much! We are all afraid for our boys! Mine are still small but I am bracing myself because I know it is only a matter of time before they won’t be seen as innocent little boys. All too soon they will learn that despite everything they may have going for them, to some they will always just be scary black men. I’ll continue to do my part to educate those around me in the hopes that one day I won’t have to write posts like this one.

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  3. Camille, thanks for opening up the dialogue about racial profiling. As a 40 year old black male, I have been profiled for most of my life. I was racially profiled this year while driving my car. I live in a diverse community as well, but found myself being follow by a local policeman until I pulled into my driveway. I want to open up and express myself to let people understand the strength and vulnerability of being a black male. We rarely express ourselves about these issues because men are taught to present an image of strength. I have to admit that as strong as I am, when I encounter racial profiling, it hurts emotionally. There were times when I felt powerless as a man because I had to choose between being emasculated by a police officer or making it home alive to see my wife and kids. My advice to mothers that worry about their young black sons is to teach your sons that these experiences are really matters of other peoples’ insecurities. If we don’t take the time to teach this to our young black boys, they might start to internalize these experiences and ask an unfair question such as “Why do people dislike me so much?” When I was 17 years old, my brother and I were stopped by a police officer while driving to a friends house. Our female cousin was in the back and the officer asked her repeatedly if she was alright. She repeatedly told the officer that she was fine and not in danger. The officer made my brother and I get out of the car and frisked us. While I was leaning against the car I felt humiliated and violated. I thought, I did not deserve this. I was mad and started to cry. I pulled away from the officer, not considering the fact that he smelled like liquor and could have taken my life. Some might ask why did I do such a “stupid” thing. Up to this point, I had been racially profiled since I was about 10 years old. That was 7 years of pinned up frustration I never talked about because it was the “norm.” Everyone was profiled in my neighborhood. I reached my breaking point and felt like I had enough. I am saying this in your forum Camille, because there are people in your community and neighboring communities that might not have the chance to truly understand what it feels like to be racially profiled. I pray that my vulnerability in this forum will help your readers understand your concerns. Now that I am older, I understand that it is important to share these stories to show people the humanity of black males. We are not an “other” we are your fathers, husbands, sons and brothers. Regardless of the unfair practice of racial profiling, I still love all people regardless of their race. I think that diversity makes life a lot more fun and interesting.

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    1. Kevin, thanks so much for sharing your experiences. You have expressed a point of view that is so important. I don’t know any Black men who have not been racially profiled. Ive heard so many stories like yours and each time I find myself being so glad the storytellers made it out alive. I think it’s so important to put different faces on the victims of racial profiling. It happens everywhere; no black male is exempt. Please continue to share your story.

      I, and quite a few women, have stories too. It is humiliating and it does make one angry. I remember crying when I was pulled over twice in the same night when I was in law school. I had on a baseball cap with my hair pulled back and I think the officers thought I was a male. I gave the second officer my drivers license and my law school ID because I thought maybe if he knew I was a student he would treat me differently and not harm me.

      Kwabs and I were just discussing the right time to start talking to Max about these issues. I definitely think we have to make sure he understands there is nothing wrong with him. Thanks for reminding me to include that in our talks! Sometimes we take it for granted that our kids will understand these issues are not a reflection of who they are but instead a reflection of the small-mindedness of others.

      In the meantime, I’ll continue to speak about these issues in the hopes that minds will be changed and future generations will not have to experience what you have.

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  4. Although I do not have children, this is an important concern of mine for my nephews as well as my future child(ren). I really love my semi-suburban community because I feel safe here. However, I have lived in this community as well as the next suburb directly west of my neighborhood. Whenever I see a car pulled over by police I make a mental bet within myself that it’s a person of color. And 9 times out of 10, I’m sad to say, it is. And many times there are several police cars surrounding one civilian vehicle.

    Last Friday I was driving and saw what appeared to be someone in the street. As I drove past I realized it was my neighbor’s girlfriend and she had been hit by a car. To make a long story short, I ran to find my neighbor so he could come to her aid. As he came running from our building to be by his loved one’s side several police officers held him back and would not allow him to see his girlfriend. I stayed and watched. Because? Police are killing black men in our streets. I understand that not all police officers are corrupt but the unfair and unjust treatment of black men has grown palpable.

    Your fear for your boys is one that I think many of us share.

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    1. Thanks for reading! I agree, there are some wonderful police officers, in fact, the majority are good however, there are too many who are not. I hope the situation with your neighbor turned out well.

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