Yesterday was Martin Luther King, Jr. day. Since the kids are out of school for it, I always make it a point to try to take them to an event, watch a movie, or do some other form of education regarding slavery, the Civil War, and race wars in the United States. This year we watched a documentary, and after she went to sleep, on the recommendation of a friend, I started watching Emancipation. (Highly recommend!) However, I had no idea it would be cut short by a much more educational experience.
Around one AM I got a text from a mom friend saying her son was missing. She had reported it to the police, but they hadn’t been able to locate him. She doesn’t drive. My mom mode instantly activated. I went and picked her up so we could drive around. Even if we didn’t find him, it would make her feel like she was doing something rather than just being in a total state of panic at home.
It was during the searching that I found myself worrying for her 13 year-old son, not as much because he was close to my daughter’s age, but because he was black and is as big as an adult. So many things crossed my mind.
She told me how the deputies asked if she wanted them to send the bloodhounds out for him.
As a member of a police family, that didn’t sound acceptable to me at all. Search K-9’s. Just K-9’s. Search and rescue unit. But “bloodhounds”?! To a mom looking for her black son?! It sounded especially wrong when followed by explaining they wouldn’t do that. Then why did you ask?! I was disappointed, to say the least. I am proud of his siblings, who actually asked, “Why? Because he’s black?”
Blue family, do better!!! The time has passed to have risen above this.
Then came the real worries. What if an unsavory adult came across him and didn’t realize he was a child and hurt him? What if he found the wrong crowd and disappeared forever? What if the police saw him and thought he was suspicious? When I tried to describe him as a child who looks like a black adult male, but with a baby face, I was literally told it described most of the people who frequent the local gas station we were checking.
I listened as she called the deputy to see if there was an update, and he let her know that he was in a system that would let them know immediately if he was taken to a hospital or arrested. I wanted to cry with her.
“Character is how you treat those who can do nothing for you.”Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
I get it. I get it now. I always got it, intellectually, but I never experienced the actual emotional fear of someone attacking a child I’ve known since he was a little boy, for looking like a black man. Suddenly I understood on a level I never had, what it’s like to raise a black child in America. Especially in a city like Orlando.
The other thing that struck me about this experience was the reluctance of the mom to post anything on social media, or get out his picture, because she was embarrassed, and felt ashamed or negligent. What does this say about us as women?
To me, it was abundantly clear that she has experienced judgment in the past as a mother. So much judgment, that she was not yet willing to do something that could help bring her son home, because that fear of judgment and embarrassment was so real.
Think about that for a minute. I could never fully understand what it’s like to be in her shoes. But I am grateful I spent the we hours of the morning, witnessing how hard it actually is. Not just because she is raising black children, but because as a society, we are more prone to judge and criticize than we are to support and offer help.
As women, who have also had to struggle for certain rights, you would think we would be more compassionate toward others. Lift each other up. I see people post quotes about this all the time on social media, but it’s quite a different thing to say something and to live up to your professed values. Women, do better!!!
Last night I learned that we have a lot of work to do. Until nobody has to worry that their child is in more danger because of the color of their skin, and women feel the support rather than shame, of their village in the times of greatest need, we have not finished Dr. King’s work!
I came home and finished watching emancipation, not yet knowing if her son would ever return, and grateful for the interruption with a real life lesson for me in the same regard. Thankfully, this story has a happy ending. He came back early in the morning and he’s in school today. But it could have just as easily ended in an entirely different way.
I have a dream. That all mothers, and women who are not mothers, but know how to nurture, and even men of good conscience, will ALL one day spring into mom mode to help another mother, regardless of circumstances, regardless of race, regardless of income, gender, sexual orientation. That they will help and not hinder. That they will come from a good place of love for each other and compassion for the greatest fears we have as mothers, and not allow ourselves to default to old patterns of judgment and shaming that we have learned.
To know that all women and men are created equal, with certain unalienable rights… to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and HOPE, with the support of their community.
We have to do better.