When I look at the sweet face of my son Jason in the picture above as a PreK student, I see energy (lots of it!), creativity, curiosity, intelligence, and problem solver...what do you see?
My Jason has always been a runner and jumper (many days I thought too much of a runner!). His childhood dreams included being a police officer, swat team member, secret service, etc. All aren’t too farfetched for he loved adventure and his godfather (Uncle Mike) was a police officer (now retired chief of police). When we had the requisite talk about being stopped by the police and how to respond, I always worried Jason didn’t take it seriously enough, he viewed the police like “Uncle Mike”. But, he was listening.
Jason’s first encounter was quite some time ago as an 18 yr old freshman at MSU. He was living at home and commuting to school. Hubby had just picked Jason up and gave him a ride instead of the long bus caravan ride home. He called his friends as soon as he got home. They had just left for The Mall and were on the bike path and told him to catch up.
As Jason sprinted across the development towards the bike path, he was cut off by a police car. The officer asked him Where are you running to? Why are you running? Where are you coming from? Do you have your ID? Jason was listening to us as we repeated the mantra over and over about responding to police officers and answered all questions respectfully and told him his Father just brought him home from MSU. He was trying to catch up to his friends on the bike path and he had his Morgan St ID to show. Apparently, young Black boy running will always be labeled suspicious. I didn’t hear this story until later that evening as he nonchalantly shared the incident. Of course, I went ballistic! (which is why he said he wasn’t going to tell me!) He said, It’s fine Mommy, I listened, and did what you and Daddy told me to do. I’m okay. He was okay, but I knew I would never be “okay” again.
I wondered what did the police officer in North Miami see as he looked at Charles Kinsey, the therapist he shot? I guess I’m lucky the police officer that stopped my son actually saw him – just a kid catching up with his friends after class.
How can we stop this insanity? It seems to be spiraling out of control. We need to get a better handle on this state of affairs. Are we willing to do the work that is needed? Or do we just want to protest? There are some steps we can take to begin to see a difference. Take a minute and answer the following questions:
As parents (and other family members)
Are we willing to instill a love for learning in our young Black boys? Will we reward effort versus performance which promotes a growth mindset?
Are we willing to share the stories of our ancestors? And to read books to them about the contribution to our great society by Black people? When our boys step into a school setting for the first time they will do so knowing they come from greatness and not to think of themselves as second-class citizens or THUGS?
Are we willing to see the light that shines in the eyes of those little Black boys in your classroom eager to learn and please their new teacher? Are we willing to use choice words when praising specifically what he did well?
Are we willing to offer staff development around Cultural Practices/Biases in the classroom in order to begin to alleviate this seemingly out-of-control situation?
As Community Leaders:
Are we willing to invest our time to mentor these young Black boys as members of our organizations (faith-based and fraternal)?
I THINK WE KNOW WHAT TO DO; THE TIME HAS COME TO WILLINGLY TAKE ACTION! Too many of our babies aren’t living up to their potential and that is the true crime.
May we bless our Black boys from birth with all the love and care they deserve and that our communities are willing to shower upon them.