He’s grown accustomed to this. Now, when he comes home from college, he says he has trouble trusting some of his most well-intentioned neighbors when he is standing in a group of young black men on his street. I understand why. James Baldwin, the late famous black novelist, essayist and public intellectual, pegged it when he wrote: “I can’t believe what you say, because I see what you do.” Oftentimes, what his neighbors do is cross the street when they see him coming.
In response, I have done all I can to make it easier for him. Six years ago, when he was home on summer break from boarding school, I sent an email to the neighbors who may not know: “Don’t be alarmed if you see a black kid walking around; he’s my son and he lives here.”
For all the women who stand in my shoes, it’s hard to believe that race didn’t play a role in Trayvon’s death. I feel deeply for Travyon’s mother; she’s living my worst fear.
I also feel that this is not just a lack and white issue. These are the same concerns for Latino mothers in Arizona, Alabama and any place there are ill-conceived immigration policies enforced. I sympathize with any parent who is Arab, Muslim or South Asian who anxiously waits at the airport, wondering what harassment their children may face because of the name on their tickets or how they are dressed.
We cannot be satisfied with legal equality when for many of us, it is of limited value in the face of our actual day-to-day experience. Unless Americans work together to end the practice of racial profiling – not just in law enforcement but in the larger social fabric – the precautions I and many other parents of color take may never be enough.
Another Parent’s View
By William Psillas
I write from a different perspective. As Laura’s husband, I am the stepfather of this same young Black man. In contrast to Laura’s history, I am an ordinary white male. So the concerns I have – and the questions they raise, in our own family unit, in this young Black man’s life, and, as a microcosm, in the American experience at large –are different.
Photo from the ACLU
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