There are times where I just want to simply be present in my life in that moment with no regard for any of the various labels that society has slapped on me. Spending time with my kids would definitely be one of those times. My eldest is now settling into his new life as an up and coming artist a mere 2700 miles away from me! To parent is to know that one day the babies will fly away from the nest; when you are in the thick of the daily minutia and dying for a few minutes alone, you think you will never be alone again. Then it happens, they are gone, you are verklempt as you struggle to redefine your relationship to your child and get to know them as an adult and maybe even as a friend. But make no mistake, you never stop parenting until the day you take your last breath, I like to imagine that even in those last moments of consciousness, the kids are still with you.
The past few days have been pretty special up here in BGIM-land better known as my corner of the world. My daughter reached the ripe old age of nine and my twenty-two year old son journeyed home to celebrate his sister’s special day. It was a good time but our time together was marred yesterday by the beast of racial bias, nothing major but the type of microagression that is part and parcel of being Black in America. For my son, a young man who though technically biracial considers himself to be Black and is seen as a young Black man, his days are littered with microagressions and racial bias. As his mother, my heart breaks,my temper rises and my inner Mama Bear rages.
It’s no coincidence that my need to talk publicly about racism coincided with my son’s teen years when the racial shit started to affect him regularly, thereby affecting me. When a simple walk to the local convenience store for a snack turned into a ride home by the cops who thought he looked like a suspect who turned out to be a very short, very white guy. Or when a trip to the local coffee shop turned my son into target practice for spineless punks throwing cans of soda from their moving vehicle while hurling racial epithets at my son and his friend.
In some ways, what happened yesterday was minor but it hurt my soul so much more because when does it end? When will the world let my babies live and be fully human, hell when can I live and be fully human?
Yesterday after a day of running errands, we decided to stop for ice cream at a place we have been going to for the last 11 of our 12 years in Maine. My son had requested this particular shop in our town because it’s his favorite, we have been going there since he was 11 and in a town where people have deep roots, while our roots aren’t deep, we do have our own family traditions and this place is it. This is a shop where we have taken my daughter and her friends every summer to celebrate her birthday since she was 4! As we were wrapping up our treats, my son noticed the owner eyeing him in that way that older whites often look at younger Black men, with fear and bewilderment. My son quietly said as we walked out, “We have been coming here since I was a kid mom, why is she(the owner) looking at me like I am a threat? She is looking at me the way all older white women look at me, as if they expect me to harm them.”
As the mother of a young Black man, I know the challenges my son faces, I know how the media fuels the fans of racial bias by presenting an image of young Black men that creates a mythical boogeyman creature. When young white men engage in youthful hijinks that reaches the level of public conscience, never does it condemn the entire group but young Black men? They are all suspect in the eyes of whites. Yet in a town that I tolerate with dwindling patience, a town where I pay taxes and have created a home, a community that I worked passionately for, I expect that my son can come home and be treated with human kindness and decency. My son should not have to be treated with disdain by people who have literally seen him grow from childhood to adulthood, yet this is the reality of raising a Black man.
In watching how the world interacts with my son when he comes home,I am struck by how different his life is from mine. When I was a young adult and until my mother got so sick that we traded places, going home was a place of safety. I would go home and spend time with my parents and when we were together, those were the moments of safety, those were my moments to refuel and prepare to go back on raised wings and find my way in the world. Yet in today’s world for Black kids particularly Black boys and young men, where is that safety? A visit home to family and a run for ice cream should be nothing more than enjoying the delicious richness of a treat, not a reminder of how our very existence as Black people is seen as a curiosity at best or suspect at worse.
Excuse the typos…my presence has been requested at the Barbie emporium.