My son just finished his freshman year in high school and will be turning 15 soon. Like most parents, as each year passes I'm filled with all different types of emotions. I'm sad because that means he's that much closer to being grown and leaving home, but also so very happy and thankful that we were even given the opportunity to share these last 15 years together.
He was born at 33 weeks due to a sudden onset of pre-eclampsia. A lot of that day is foggy but you never forget the moment when someone tells you that you need an emergency c-section because you and your baby are dying. But here we are today, almost 15 years later, and as I'm filled with happiness and thankfulness, I'm also filled with fear. Fear, that even though we survived all that 15 years ago, that one day I could still lose him.
My son's not the most social, but there are times when he likes to get out and hang with the few friends he has. Of course I let him because I want him to be able to go out and have fun, but I am fearful. I trust my kid and I know he'll make good decisions so I'm not worried about him getting in trouble. No, what I fear is him leaving my home and not coming back. I fear that while he's out he'll "fit a description" or someone will view him as "a threat" or "dangerous" or think "he looks like he's up to no good" or say "I thought it was a weapon". I fear he'll become another hashtag, another viral video, another social media trending topic, another protest, another name, another victim.
My son is small for his age and he's the most well behaved, calm, and well mannered young man you could meet, but that won't matter. He goes to a pristine private school where he plays in the band and makes the honor roll, but that won't matter. Even though it's 600 miles away, he is active in his church youth group, but that won't matter. He's never even so much as gotten detention, let alone gotten in any real trouble, but that won't matter. He'll still be judged, he'll still be a threat, and they'll still find a reason. And unfortunately it'll only get worse as he grows into a man.
Part of being a parent is fear and worry, that's natural. What's not natural is the fear and worry I have for my child's life simply because he is a young black man. That him being black is all it will take for people to have a skewed perception of him, see him as a threat, and use that as justification for him not making it home to us. That kind of fear is unlike any other, and it hits different.