Saturday, December 6, 2014

Is My Son Next?

I remember as a kid knowing that if there was ever a fire, my dad, or someone like my dad, would save me. And just as surely as I believed that firemen would rescue me, I had the surest of faith in policemen. 

But while I know that I can have faith in many, there is the ugly horrific truth that I cannot have faith in all. 

We grow up believing that these men are heroes. That they protect us from harm. And they do. They risk their lives for us daily. They work tireless hours. They sacrifice holidays, school plays, children's basketball games, and tucking their children in all so I can lay my head safely on my pillow at night.

But just as one drop of food coloring can change a glass of water, the decisions of a few have brought out my greatest fear- not the fear of criminals, but of police. And not my fear of what they could do to me, but of what they would do to my son. 

I remember vividly watching the Trayvon Martin news in a hotel room with my mom and husband. I remember fearing what the world would be like if and when I ever had a son. 

But that fear has never been so real until I held my son in my arms and had to begin making a mental list of all the things I have to tell him when he becomes a teenager. 

When you go into a store in the winter, take your hood off. 

Never reach into your pockets or keep your hands there.

If you are walking through a neighborhood on your way home, keep your phone in your hand, so in case it rings you don't have to reach for it. 

If you get accused of something that you HONESTLY didn't do, let them arrest you. Because of how you look, you are already a suspect, and it's better to be arrested than dead. 

Whether this list right or wrong, these are the truths I have to tell my son along with a laundry list of other realities that only my husband as a black male can know and understand. 

I wish I could stop here. I wish I could reference one case and just let my fear be unjustified...but it's not and I can't. Because just last week when 12-year-old Tamir Rice was murdered in the park, I yet again had to realize that someday, that could be my son. 

My husband had a toy pellet gun just like Tamir's in college. Just like it.

What if we had kept it? What if it made its way to the back of the closet and my curious 12-year-old son found it? And thinking he was cool like the people he sees on TV broke off the orange cap and headed to the park to shoot some birds? All while I'm thinking he is going to play? 

And what if out of a split second decision someone, a policeman, shot him thinking he was armed with a real weapon? 

And the worst part is- What if the policeman who shot my son then lets him lay there? Never trying to help him after realizing it was just a toy and that my son was not a criminal but just a boy making a bad, yet now fatal decision. 


I want to stop here. I want these to be the only instances in which I'm afraid. But just as I said before, they aren't, and I can't. 

What happens when my son gets arrested because someone thinks they saw him do something? And what if my son who knows right and wrong, who loves and fears the Lord, and has been warned by his mother and father to just listen to the police EVEN if they are wrong- what if my son doesn't fight back but tries to move away from their arrest? What if he stands up for himself because he IS innocent?

Do they choke him? Using a move that is illegal?

What happens when he pleads he can't breathe-over and over again?

What happens after he's breathed his last?

And person who killed him doesn't try to bring him back? Doesn't try frantically to save him but let's him lay there? 


I don't just have to fear for that moment when my son has to say, "My hands are up, don't shoot!" I have to fear so much more than that. 

And I have to face all of that in the eyes of an ugly and hateful society- one that says my fears are unjustified, one that says he should just go with being wrongly mistreated so "something terrible"-like his MURDER- doesn't happen to him.

But even though I have these fears, and even though the reality is that I have to wonder "Is my son next," I have hope. The only hope I can have- Jesus. He is my source of peace and comfort that I have as I lay my son in his crib night crying and praying that things will be different for him in the future. He is where I put my hope that someday, maybe someday, I won't have to wonder if my son is next.