Elder child aka the boy is home for the summer from his Papa’s house (aka the ex-spousal unit) and as always the first few days of him being home are an adjustment for me since having another member of the opposite sex in my domain always tends to throw me off momentarily.
This year though things are different for me, see elder child turned 16 a few months ago and for the first time I finally understood the fear my parents had with my brother that caused them to flee the south side of Chicago to a more racially diverse area of Chicago because they were scared for my brother. Scared he might get sucked into the gangbanging lifestyle at the tender age of 10, sadly I wish this was an exaggeration but the old neighborhood that my Granny and family lived in for almost 40 years; by the late 80’s early 90’s had become a hotbed of gang activity. On the surface the area seemed quiet but when you raise kids you notice the action that goes.
When we moved to Maine 6 years ago (not even gonna explain how we landed here) a part of me naively felt that I would not have to worry about elder child being targeted for gangs and the madness that can exist in the larger cities, so I willingly traded my urban lifestyle in Chicago for the coast of Maine and a town of sixteen thousand. I figured he would have a chance to be a kid and while Maine and New England has afforded him much freedom and exposure to nature he never would have had in Chicago, in the past few months its dawned on me that its also afforded him something else and that is an exposure to racism in its rawest form.
Don’t get me wrong life was never peaches and cream back in Chicago, shit I grew up knowing that Bridgeport and Cicero were 2 locations in the Chicago area I never ever wanted to be caught in, followed by Mount Greenwood where at 14, I had a preschool age kid call me a nigger. However most racism in Chicago and most big cities manifest itself in slow under the radar ways, as I like to say the white folks know they cannot just start talking greasy or else heads will roll.
Well living in a small town in a fairly homogenous state, I can honestly say I have encountered little in terms of racism, yeah folks stare but the longer I live here the locals know me so generally its only the tourists staring so by late Oct they are all gone and life goes ok. People to some degree seem more real to me, I have a few neighbors who I swear have redneck tendencies but on more than one occasion have plowed us out of 15 inches of snow without me asking and who ply mini me aka the daughter with sweet treats.
That said, I have noticed that now that elder boy is 6’2 with facial hair and looks more like a man rather than a child, the same niceties that are extended to me and his sister seem to stop at him. Earlier this year while walking home from a local sandwich shop he was picked up by the local po-po because he fit the description of a suspect who turned out to be white and rather short. Elder boy at the time was armed with a cheese-steak sandwich and fries, the local po-po gave him a ride in the cop car and brought him home at which time, officer not so friendly upon encountering my other half aka the house white man, started back pedaling and explaining it was just a mix up. Needless to say I have often wondered what would have happened what if I was married to a Black man, would the cop have been so eager to please or tried to pin every unsolved crime in town on both of them.
Most recently, elder child and his best friend were on a local bus coming back from the beach, when elder child says an older white man and his crony started talking loudly about niggas coming to their job being loud and spending money and complaining. Elder child says he was not the only Black man on the bus but the others put their head down, but being my son he was raised to stand up for injustice. I won’t bore you with the details but he did the right thing and the 2 old racists decided to shut the hell up since apparently elder child was ready to open up a can of whup ass on them.
Now when he told me the story, I was proud of him but also scared especially when I saw his rage not just at the 2 racists (as I told him they are bitter and clinging to outdated notions of the world so don’t worry about them) but at the other young Black man on the bus who put his head down. He asked me Mama, how could he (the other Black man) just put his head down? Honestly I don’t know, fear, shame, who knows…
That said I have come to realize that while I am proud as hell to have a son who will stand up for what’s right, I am scared, scared everytime he walks out the door whether he is here in Maine or at his Dad’s house which is just outside of Chicago. I am also mad at a society that makes it necessary for Black women to fear when our sons walk out the door.
I often wonder do white Mamas have these same fears, I suspect not and that discrepancy is only a portion of what can make a Black woman become an Angry Black Woman.