It was subtle, I’ll admit. I called it other things … anger, frustration, staying informed, being aware, and just plain out wanting to know what’s going on. That’s what I could see. But what I didn’t realize was happening, taking root like a weed inside me, was a pervasive feeling of fear.
Like many of you, I’ve watched the painful coverage of the shootings then lack of indictments in the cases of Mike Brown and Eric Garner, as well as watched George Zimmerman walk after shooting Trayvon Martin. I prayed. I hurt. I cried. And I hugged my babies tighter. Inwardly, I resolved to do all I could to fight the feeling of powerlessness attempting to plague me. Though my boys are young, I slipped in nuggets of wisdom regarding dealing with police and presenting yourself in public. Things no parent of color wants to say. Yet things that must be communicated to our children.
I realized how deeply I’d been affected when I discovered a couple of pricing tags my son had from the store. To him, they were nothing more than something to play with – pricing tags that had fallen to the ground, not attached to any merchandise. They were like the coupons he gets from the machines for me. To me, it screamed unfair and unsavory accusations of theft, accusations and potential punishments. And in essence, I lost it. Instead of giving him a good, thorough understanding of why these items have to remain in the store (he’s only 7), I started talking about stealing, and how people won’t see it as an innocent mistake, and how you can be punished and taken away from us. I came close to crying. He did cry. I wasn’t trying to scare him. I was scared.
Scared of losing him. Scared of him being misunderstood. Scared that such an innocent mistake would be viewed that way were the child white; but for my son, surely someone would try to label him. Or worse. My son is an exemplary child. He’s smart, kind, loving, giving, and knows right from wrong. He was picking up a pricing tag off the floor, he reasoned, not merchandise you have to pay for. And while it still merited discussion, it didn’t deserve my tirade of sorts. I couldn’t believe fear of how I thought others would react to what my son had done, purely because of his beautiful brown skin, made me act.
My husband talked me through it. I went back to my son. I apologized, hugged him, and told him I loved him. I explained things the right way. And while I can’t pretend these feelings will immediately disappear, I’ll continue to pray – and focus on faith – instead of fear.