I wake up at night and roll-over and think of my older son wearing a hoodie and buying an iced tea and Skittles someday. It seems like such a foreign concept: Afterall, he still can't cross the street without taking a grown-up by the hand. But, some day I know that both my boys--aged 6 and 2--will be allowed to walk to the local Wawa on Baltimore Pike without me. I think about those four blocks from our house to the Wawa and wonder what they might encounter on their way there or their way home. They will probably pass dog walkers, a small group of African-American boys playing hoops in the street, a bunch of refugee smokers outside of TDS bank, Nativity BVM Catholic Church, and then they will walk onto the grounds of Christ Church passing the memorial garden and the fountain on their way into our home. Back safely with their iced tea and Skittles.
I remember when I first learned about "the talk" that African-American boys are given by their parents. No, not that talk about the birds and the bees, but the talk about WHEN you get stopped by the police...My first awareness of this talk came when I was in college and took a sociology class on African-American studies taught by Cheryl Gilkes, who was both a professor and a Black Protestant minister. I later learned that the "talk" also extends to girls. My godson's sister was not allowed to go into malls in the greater Boston area without her white mother because if she did, she would be followed by some pimply store clerk in a five and dime store. They would follow her closely making sure she wouldn't snatch those shiny faux diamond earrings. I think back to two Christmases ago when my godson visited us with his dad, and he had on a hoodie. My godson is tall, dark, and handsome towering over me now that he is 17. On that day, we walked into Media for lunch and I can't remember if he pulled the hoodie up over his head for warmth. And, now all I can think about is John handsomely dressed in a non-politicized hoodie. Now such a choice has got to be a politicized statement for a young African-American male. No doubt, things feel a bit differently for anyone who has an African-American child right now.
I can't get to the details of this case because I don't know them. But, I do know this: My children won't remember a time when they didn't have an African-American as president, especially if Obama rolls into a second term. My children know a church where at least 10% of the congregation is African-American and the other minorities are Korean, Chinese, Latino, and Brazilian. My children are so fond of an older African-American woman they call Miss Claudine, and they insist that her white neighbors (who go to Christ Church as well) are her grandchildren. But, I also know I will never have to sit down with Elias or Josiah and say to them..."When you are stopped by the police...you need to make sure your hands are in view and you are polite and co-operative." I know that in ten years when my boys are teenagers, black boys will still be sat down at their kitchen tables, while their mothers and fathers cringe, and they will be quizzed on the intricacies of procedures when the police stop them. And for all the progress we have made, I know my bous can survive without the talk. It still makes me sick and sad to wake-up thinking about Skittles and iced tea.