Where We Are and Where We Need to Be: LaJuan’s Story
This is the second in a set of blog posts sharing some of the perspectives and knowledge of AILA staff members on racism and injustice.
I am the mother of a brilliant young black adult male. His name is Dominick and I love him so very much. He has this beautiful dark curly hair that smells like coconut milk. When he smiles, his eyes disappear in his cheeks and his smile becomes so contagious that you can’t help but smile back at him. When he was little and we were out and about, I would constantly get compliments about how cute and adorable my Dominick was…but soon those “cute” compliments faded and none of the above-mentioned would matter because to far too many people, the first and possibly only thing that mattered was that he is BLACK.
Raising a black boy is a scary blessing. It is like a big countdown from when your child grows from this cute little person into a threatening weapon. Even though my black child hates violence, may not believe in carrying weapons, or even fighting. In fact, he is the one that calms me down in the grocery store parking lot when someone steals my spot. The sheer amount of melanin in his skin will make him a threat in almost every circumstance of his entire life.
I oftentimes wished I could have slowed time down. Not only because I wanted to cherish the sweet moments of his childhood, but also because I knew that it would only be a matter of time before I could no longer protect this beautiful black boy from the ignorant people that will see him as a weapon of mass destruction only because of his skin color.
I worried that I would not be able to protect him from those that fear him. Worried that he would be the next hashtag of an unarmed black boy dead due to a white person’s fear and ignorance.
So to protect him, I stole his innocence at a very young age. I had to have “the talk” with Dom. You know “the talk” that I am referring to…and if you don’t know about “the talk” then that’s part of the problem.
- If ever stopped by police always keep your hands where they can see (preferably at “10 and 2”);
- Always ask the officer if you may reach in your wallet for your license;
- Keep your registration in the pouch on the dashboard. (purchased on Amazon the day he got his license);
- NEVER EVER reach for anything the officer didn’t ask for (phone, brush, pen, pencil, inhaler);
- “Yes sir,” “no sir” – “yes ma’am,” “no ma’am”:
- Use proper English and NEVER use slang terms;
- Always keep your voice low and modest;
- Never argue with an officer even if he is wrong. Your job is to make it home to me. When you get home, we can fix whatever comes after that.
The talk is about how it doesn’t matter how good of a person he is, how smart he is, how caring he is—he is still a black person in America and black people are seen as lesser than and scary to others and the police.
Black people are most likely to be killed by police officers.
- AND…Police killed 1,099 people in 2019 and black people were 24% of those killed despite being only 13% of the population.
- ALSO…Police are 3x more likely to kill a black person than a white person despite the fact that black people are 1.3x more likely to be unarmed compared to white people.
Unarmed and black can be a death sentence in his own country.
I did not want to scare Dom. I did not want to see his innocence stripped away from him as I told him about this cruel reality. I wish I did not have to have this conversation with my amazing son. But how could I not have this conversation when it is the only thing I could do to possibly save his life?
Nonblack people will oftentimes say to me, “I can’t imagine how you must feel.” I cannot speak for all black mothers, but this does not make me feel better. Please stop saying this to me. To be reminded of the fact that you have the luxury of not having these feelings does not make me feel better. If you had to feel what black people have had to feel for so many years, the problem would have been eradicated by now. That’s kind of the point of BLACK LIVES MATTER. I am not mad at you for not having to feel it. I am happy for you because I wouldn’t wish this on an enemy of mine but being reminded that you don’t have to go through this just doesn’t make me feel better.
Words can’t even begin to describe the confusion of pain and emotions that I feel but I will say this:
I am extremely proud of Dom and the man that he has become. I love his mocha brown skin and curly black hair as much today as I did when he was little. Those are things that I gave him! However, the same things that I love about him, the very things that I gave him, are the things that make others see him as a weapon. That scary, proud, angry, hurt, guilty, and shameful confusion of feelings are with me every day, not just when a black person is killed, and we find out about it. Now don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t change a curly hair on his head, but there’s this small part of me that can’t help but feel guilty and ashamed for bringing him into a world where he is hated for the very thing that “I” gave him–the color of his skin.
If you can begin to unpack that kind of parental shame and guilt, then maybe you can begin to imagine how I feel.
Black Lives Matter. Words have power. You have to say it to mean it.