A few weeks ago on a Saturday evening, as I sat reading my apartment, I heard what sounded like several teens yelling obscenities toward each other outside.
Their interaction was mostly incoherent, and I don’t believe they were fighting about anything. All I could really make out was them shouting out profanity extremely loud and directing it at each other. Now, I’m definitely not a saint in regards to the foul language department, but the excessiveness at which they were cussing was even making me, a former habitual foul-mouther, blush.
I heard my neighbor, an elderly gentleman, open his door and shout out to the young boys to watch their language. I myself try lay off scolding other people’s children. I don’t do so, not because I do want to (in a constructive and loving way if it’s deserved). It’s not because I’m scared the child will get mad at me. It’s because I know what happens to black men who display anger or aggression in public even if it’s perceived and by someone as such, when it’s not literal in nature. I’d go more into detail about the consequences of that, but I know that you, reader, can figure out on out on your own.
However, if I really feel there’s a situation where I need to step in and correct a child on their behavior, then, it’s my inherent duty to do so.
And, at this point, the children heard my neighbor’s request and ignored it. They continued to spew out obscenities anyway, and disrespecting elderly people (my neighbor is up there in age) is something I don’t tolerate. Also, I knew that if I could hear them, the children living my complex probably could also. And, I definitely didn’t want children being exposed to that kind of language.
So, I saw it as a situation where I needed intervene. Now initially with the way they were potty-mouthing with each other, I originally assumed it was a group of teenagers until I opened the door and saw five kids who couldn’t have been older than eleven or twelve. The group consisted of 4 white kids and 1 black kid.
Originally, my intent was to walk over to them and to tell them that they needed to respect the residents like how they would like to be respected and that their language made them sound ignorant and hateful. However, once I saw the black child, my whole assessment of the situation shifted greatly.
In that moment, it was no longer a matter of “just getting some rowdy kids to pipe down;” it became a matter of life and death for that young black boy. Now, some of you out there have no idea of the correlation I’m applying when I say that. Y’all are thinking to yourselves, “What does a group of boys showing out have to do with the situation being deadly or not?”
And, the fact that you’re asking that question is telling of your lack of knowledge on just how systematic racism operates in America, either because you’ve been distracted from examining it at every turn and corner of life or because you’ve had the privilege of never having to deal with the direct consequences of it.
What I saw–what I have to see living as a black man in America–was the potential and high probability for a chain of events to occur, which would likely proceed as such:
Someone calls the cops saying that there is this angry black man (black children are regularly judged and seen as being adults), leaving out that they’re also white kids, ranting a raving and that they believe he might be about to hurt someone.
The cops head to the scene with the notion that they’re dealing with a hostile suspect.
They confront the child, and they see the kid has an object in-hand, immediately draw their guns, and tell him to “drop his weapon.”
The child, being confused about what “weapon” he is holding (it’s probably a toy or phone) is mortified by the experience and freezes up like a deer in headlights.
They proceed to shoot the child in an excessive and needless manner, killing them in cold blood.
The cop states to the jury that he “feared for his life“, and the mostly white jury, who is perfectly aware the cop is guilty, sides with law enforcement. The cop doesn’t get indited.
The cop, who has been on paid leave the entire time, is allowed back on the force.
What we as black men and women should and must consider is that there are people who like to intentionally create the types of scenarios for the purpose of getting our children murdered by law enforcement. There are people who will call the cops for literally nothing, as we’ve seen in the Starbucks controversy, in the hopes they will be slaughtered. They know perfectly well what has the potential to happen when you place a young black boy or girl interacts with policeman or policewomen.
They’re purposefully setting the stage for murder when they unnecessarily call in the cops any time a young black child even sneezes too loud because they know that little kid can’t properly articulate themselves to grown men and women with guns much less know how to interacting with them in a way that doesn’t make them “fearful for their lives.”
That is why I flagged that young boy down and told him straight up what kind of attention this young man and his friends were bringing. I tried to speak with the white children, too, about the seriousness of the situation, but they walked away mid-sentence unfortunately. I say “unfortunately” because they needed to know what kind of impact their behavior could have on their black friend–that their black friend would receive more severe consequences for the exact same behavior.
I made him aware of what the reality of the situation was, and, if those kids were going to continue cussing and acting out, he didn’t need to hang with them anymore. I flat-out told him, those kids, who don’t have to worry about what their skin means in an environment of systematic white supremacy, were putting him in a situation where he could be killed with impunity.
I don’t believe in sugarcoating stuff like that to children. By not telling them the truth, I would be doing them a disservice.
That is our job as American citizens–to properly prepare our children to face the racist society we live in and to make sure they are cautious and aware, in the specific way they need to be, at all times.
Because, children don’t watch the news and read articles like adults, so there’s no way they’re abreast of most current events. They have no idea about what kind of social climate they’ve been born into. They’re children. It’s our job to protect and inform them, and we darn sure can’t expect the kid shows, family movies, nor the school system to do it.
Make the time to keep the kids in your community aware of just what kind of society they live in and how to move around in it.
For example, like with the situation that happened in Austin, if you know there’s some racist lunatic mailing bombs to people’s doorstep, when you see some kids outside playing, stop them for a moment and make them aware of it. Tell them that they need to be aware of suspicious packages. Let them know what’s going on, and don’t just walk by them and not nothing.
I don’t have any children, but protecting black children in the way that they need to specifically be protected in America is my responsibility as a grown man. And, it’s your responsibility as an adult, too.
And, I’m not just talking to black adults either. It’s the job of every grownup in America to know the specific challenges these young black children face, in addition to the life challenges all have children face, and it’s everyone’s job, as a human beings, to put in the work of ensuring their safety.
If that isn’t a priority of yours, you are a truly pathetic individual.
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