by Christina Davies
My name is Christina. I’m the mother of two boys. One’s eleven and one’s thirteen. We’re a diverse family. I’m half-Asian, half-Caucasian. My husband is blonde; my youngest son looks like his clone; and my oldest son is adopted and African American. We’re the poor man’s version of Angelina Jolie’s family.
The other day my oldest son Clayton is taking a walk along the river. We live in a pretty nice neighborhood right on the river. The neighborhood gets lots of attention when tour boats go by. My oldest son is a quirky kid, and he needs to have something in his hands to fidget with. He found these toy black plastic spy mirrors that elongate and contract on a hinge. He broke off the mirror, and likes likes to hold one handle in each hand, tapping them in the air like you’d gently tap a drum.
As my son takes a leisurely stroll along the River Walk behind our house, hyper focused on wiggling his fidgets as he goes, two police officers approach him. They ask him a few questions, and then want to talk to a parent. Clayton takes the officers home. He opens the front door. My husband Joseph is there in the family room, watching football. “Dad,” he says, “there’s somebody here to talk to you.”
Joseph gets to the door, sees the two officers, and watches their faces drop. Everybody knows my son wasn’t doing anything wrong. And now the officers need to explain to a White dad why his Black son was targeted.
“There’s been a complaint,” says one of the officers. “Someone on one of the tour boats thought your son had nun chucks. We’re sorry. These are obviously not nun chucks and he is obviously not dangerous, but had to respond. And when we found out he is a minor, we had to notify you as the parent.”
“I get it,” says Joseph. “You’re doing your job.” And that was that...
So many things this incident brought up for me. My first question was, are nun chucks illegal? Why is that a reason to call the cops? And what did the tourist on the boat think when they saw Clayton? Did the tourist imagine Clayton leaping and bounding off buildings and bridges into their boat to harm them? Or... was it that he was a Black boy in a neighborhood “too good” for Black people? Did they even see a boy, or did they see a Black hooligan? A Black hooligan who liked to take leisurely walks along the river with a pair of nun chucks: frightening.
There’s nothing about this story that shocked my husband. Joseph’s brother is also adopted and he’s bi-racial. My husband and his family survived several cross burnings on their lawn when he was a child. More than once, adult neighbors yelled that Joseph was a “nigger-lover” when he rode bikes with his brother down the street. Cops coming to the door isn’t anything new for Joseph. He’s been dealing with racism, as a White man, his whole life, all the way from the beginning.
But that’s the sad part, isn’t it? My husband will be fifty in a year and a half. For fifty years, he’s been dealing with a problem that isn’t making big enough strides. When we adopted Clayton, my husband was adamant that we raise him in the city, where there is a diversity of people, where Clayton can see Black male professionals everywhere – doctors, accountants, shop owners, servers. He wanted Clayton to see himself grow into a Black man who could be anybody he wants to be when he is an adult.
Until now, I didn’t realize just how important that is. ‘Of course, he should know he can be anybody he wants to be when he grows up!’ I used to think.
But now I see that society tells him... specifically him, and specifically every Black man... differently.
About the Author: Christina minored in writing at Northwestern University and has spent the last 22 years writing professionally in some capacity. She used to have her own blog that was featured in the Huffington Post, Yahoo News, and the New York Times. She enjoys expressing her thoughts and feelings through writing, and feels comfortable doing so online.