When my son was two years old, we went to Disneyland. When it was time to leave, we gathered in front of the train depot to take a picture, to capture the memory of our trip.
As soon as he could, he released my hand, ran up to the wall, climbed up and said, “Look mom, look at me!”
He was so excited that he was able to do something by himself, but I was afraid that he would fall. My natural instinct was to run and pull him off and tell him that he shouldn’t be up there. I just wanted to protect him from getting hurt. I wanted to wrap him up in my love and tell him that I was going to protect him from everything that could hurt him.
I really wish I could do that now. But I can’t.
My son is now 16 years old.
I have never been happier to see the coming of age rite of passage that was my son’s sixteenth birthday. Not because of the fanfare or the bigness that is generally associated with 16, but because he is able to see another year and is able to come home at night.
He is a black boy.
Every day of his life is a gamble that one day he may not win. He not only has to ward off dangers in the streets, but in school, with his friends, and even when he is doing what he loves: playing basketball.
We had a huge argument a couple of nights ago because he has not been doing well in school. He went to summer school at a credit recovery program and our agreement was that if he brought his credits up to be back on track for senior year, he could go back to his home school to play basketball.
He, like other young black boys has dreams of becoming a professional basketball player in the NBA. Our fight was much bigger than basketball. He had his heart set on being able to play and I hated to tell him he couldn’t go back, but I did; because not only was he off track…I was afraid for his safety.
I’m afraid for him every minute of every day.
I’m afraid when he is walking to and walking home from school.
I’m afraid when he is walking to the gym.
I’m afraid when he is just standing in front of our house.
I am afraid for his life all of the time. Especially with everything that is going on in the world right now.
My prayer every time that he steps out of the door is just that he comes home. I pray that he is lying in his bed the next morning and I don’t have to go out to look for him.
I pray that I don’t get a call in the middle of the night that something has happened to him. I pray that he gets to live a full life.
The problem is: I don’t know if that is going to happen.
Unfortunately, his life was written from birth to be difficult. He didn’t chose this life, but it was the one that he was given. It is my job to protect him but how can I when the system that is set up to help me do that has failed him?
Young black men are an endangered species and have been for a long time. My son is endangered. There are people in the world who do not want him to succeed. There are people in the world who feel that he only has two life choices: death or jail.
It’s not fair to him. I don’t think it will ever be fair or right.
I just hope he lives.
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