Monday, September 1, 2014

My son, My young adult

I think it is hard for every parent to step back and let their teens and young adults make their own choices.  However, for me there is an added layer of concern.  My son is a strong handsome black man.  He loves to skateboard and wear Bob Marley T's.  He loves smooth jazz and hiking in the woods. He is helpful, especially to seniors and so easy going that young children and animals are nearly always drawn to him.

But that is not what it is likely to be seen if he is stopped by law enforcement, or if a stranger saw him walk down the street.  I have always thought about his safety, but somehow I was less aware of the fact that he is now  seen as a man and not a boy.  Probably it is that "mom" thing.  Our kids are always our kids.  The treasured memories I have of him as a young boy influence how I see him.

Yet on a recent camping trip to NH, this  was brought home to me.  Others from our city were also camping in the same place.  Most of those folks were related and were part of a family reunion. Apparently one of the reunion  families said that they knew there was another family from our city camping there. (meaning us of course.)  "I think they are in that tent in the back" she was told.  The woman answered-- "Oh do you mean the white lady and the black man and those two little kids?"

I know this because later the parties involved saw me en route to the washroom and decided to share this with me.  That was the first time that I thought of people seeing Rob as a man, not my son.  I am in a relatively progressive area of the country but "relatively" is the key word.  There are many studies done about how young black men are perceived as threatening.  There have been incidents in our community in the past, there have been horrific things that have happened in a myriad of locations around the country.  Ferguson is sadly not as isolated an incident as we would like to believe.

We speak often, he and I about the things he must do to stay safe.  But tomorrow he goes off to college and for the first time is making most of his decisions on his own.  I pray for a fulfilling and safe college experience for him in the big city.

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