From the day my son was born I have had a sick feeling in the bottom of my belly. Truthfully it began while I was pregnant. Pure unadulterated fear and anxiety of knowing that black mommas don’ t have the luxury of knowing the day nor the time that our sons transition from being cute to a threat in the United States. My son is coming up on his 8thbirthday. He’s an avid reader, takes Tae Kwon Do, loves to swim, has the absolute sweetest spirit and demeanor. But he’s also in the 90thpercentile for height, which means most people think he’s older than he is. That alone scares the living daylights out of me.
17-year old Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by a white vigilantly neighborhood watchman in his own neighborhood on February 26, 2012. At the time my only son was 7 months old. I remember the resounding fear that I felt for my son. I don’t know another chocolate mom that has not lived with this unsettling angst every day of their son’s lives. I understand this is a concept difficult for our vanilla mommas to comprehend. Each day when my husband and son leave my home I say an extra prayer for their safe return. Why, because 12-year-old Tamir Rice was shot by a policeman playing in the park across the street from his home for playing with a toy gun. Well guess what, my son likes toy soldiers, Pokémon’, slime and toy guns too.
Today my son participated in an away swim meet. I was there and volunteered as a turn judge. Now volunteering as a judge is a shared responsibility for swim parents. It requires concentration on the match which sometimes means you leave your own children for other team moms to look after in between events. This is the second year my children have participated on this mostly white summer swim team. Our families see each other a total of four days a week. You can’t spend that amount of time and not become loosely familiar with one another.
During the meet I glance over at a table and see my daughter, son and one of my daughter’s teammates sitting at a table sharing a bag of pretzels. I smile at the kind gesture of my daughter’s friend to share her family’s snacks. A few moments later the young girl is beckoned by the coach for her event and my daughter follows to cheer her on. This meant the bag of pretzels she’d brought was left on the table with my son.
Now remember, I’m judging so I have to watch the match, which usually takes anywhere from :45 seconds to 1 minute. When the race is over my son tugs my right leg and says “momma, I think so and so’s mom is mad at me and thinks I stole their bag of pretzels.” So I ask for more detail and he says that during the match the mom and her son approached the table, snatched the bag from the table and told him “these don’t belong to you, they are ours.”
At this moment, the next match is about to begin and I can’t address it. So, I tell my son to go get his sister and I’ll deal with it when the meet is over. This is a teammates mom. So she at least knows we are on the same team. And here’s where there’s a divide and difference among mothers in this country. I am now concerned on a level my Caucasian mothers wouldn’t have to be. It would be nice to think of this as a misunderstanding without consequence. But I don’t have this luxury. See there are Permit Patty’s out there waiting for moments like this to call the police and proclaim my son a thief. This type of implicit biased could cost my 8-year old son his life. Yes, it’s just that serious to me.
By the end of the match her well meaning daughter had explained that she offered my children the pretzels and the mom has apologized to my children. When I approach, she says “Your children are so sweet. I’m so sorry, I just looked up and saw our bag of pretzels on the other table and went to get them. I think I frightened him when I took them back.”
I accepted her apology and remind her that my children are not thieves and leave. In the car on the 30-minute ride home, I have to explain to my children why they cannot share things the same way their other “friends” can and how dangerous situations like that can be. Plus, it’s totally unnecessary because my children need and want for absolutely nothing “so if someone offers you something, just politely decline.”
So here’s my question, would the mom have reacted the same if my son looked different? Some would think I’ve put too much thought into it, but what I know for sure is that I can’t afford not to.
Tomorrow I will bring that “team mom” a super sized bag of pretzels with a bow on it.
But maybe today’s the day that my Hershey has gone from cute to a threat.