Dear America: My 16-Year-Old Son Is Not Your Threat

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A few years ago I wrote a post on about the fear I had as the mother of black males in America. It was inspired by a the death of Jordan Dunn in Florida and many others. Seeing youth gunned down under any circumstances is heartbreaking and especially so when it seems they are just hanging out with friends when situations for lack of a better term “go south” and they end up being another American Tragedy. When Tamir Rice was killed once again my heart sunk just like it did with others.

In the years since those deaths my sons, one much older and the other now 16, have also felt the impact of the death of young black males in America. They each have lived with fears that most think should not affect them because they are law-abiding, educated people yet they have the fears anyway. Just last week I’d had a talk with my son after seeing family and we were driving as I was suddenly followed by a police officer for almost a mile until I turned off and out of his jurisdiction.

Did this mean the police officer was ready to find a reason to stop me driving while black or did I fit the description of someone else? Was he interested in the car I was driving or maybe he needed another ticket for the month. Perhaps he just felt like following me because he was bored. Whatever the reason, I was clearly unnerved and concerned about the message my kids got about police officers especially when I know there are plenty of good ones that unfortunately are overshadowed by the darkness of the bad ones.

In the end what does this mean for my son who is ready to start driving and spending more time away from me with his friends? For me as a parent, the concerns are greater. This same child of mine was once in a situation the year before walking with friends form his football team while in uniform fundraising. They were threatened by a man who didn’t want minority kids in his neighborhood because he was afraid they were thieves. When he motioned that he’d shoot them, they, like any other innocent suburban kids, ran away terrified. Fortunately this same man called police who were sympathetic to the kids, knew of their football team and realized the man was more of a nuisance than a community watch person. This case turned out alright but I wonder had my son been alone what would have happened.

Much of what we see today regarding the fears people have of blacks and other minorities is not because the majority of the kids are to be feared. Most kids of color are simply just kids who happen to be OF COLOR and they are law-abiding kids wanting to have fun. Sadly, I often feel the fuel of racial hatred is constantly forced down our throats via media headlines meant to grab attention and sell stories.

Recently I saw a story line that was so ridiculous I wrote a letter to the editor. It said “Black woman saves kids...” Who cares if she was black as long as she saved some kids that were in a bad situation during a bus fire. Race didn’t even need to be in the headline. And like so many other stories it had lots of shares because it caught people’s attention. The same is the case when we read stories about robberies, shootings, etc and the race of the perpetrators are always mentioned thus creating biases against other races. This constant attention to race causes people of color to have issues with whites in the same way because it instills fear and anger.

With this continuing to be an issue, what happens to a suburban, highly intelligent, well-behaved teenager in America? They are lumped into the same category as kids are the opposite and when walking down the street, hanging out with friends, in schools or driving they instantly have to fight a battle they didn’t even know they were in. If this were you, would it make you angry? Let it happen every day, every week to you and then tell me how you’d feel. Kids don’t have the mental capacity to control impulsivity or suppress emotions the way many adults do and after a while when they get fed up, the will act out. At that point they then support the very stereotypes they are trying to fight in the first place.

In today’s America, due to the intensity of race relations it makes me sad, fearful and angry for not only my kids but the children of others. Every day I continue to have conversations with my son and daughter to help them process the issues they hopefully will never come across. My reality has shown me, however whether it’s being followed in a store, followed in a car at some point they may end up having to deal with issues that are no fault of their own.

The saddest part is my son is not your threat America; however, the problem with confusion about how people interpret the intent of other races without given them a chance is.

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