Monday, July 15, 2013

Parenting Advice: What to do when someone pulls a gun on you....

Three hours after the Trayvon Martin verdict was delivered, I finally remembered that a gun had been pulled on me once. At my front door. By a police officer.

I'd called to report a break in that happened while I was upstairs in the home I own in a working-class, all-black neighborhood. While I was preparing for bed, an intruder had removed a screen and opened a window to enter into my kitchen downstairs. When the alarm went off he apparently fled (though not immediately). Thanking God that my child was not in the house, I was afraid to come downstairs. After waiting for 20 minutes on hold with 911 on my landline, I dialed emergency services on my cell. Forty minutes later, with both phones to my ears, I answered the door.

An African-American police officer had his gun pointed at me. I don't remember the conversation. I do remember being frozen in my PJs and night hat, not wanting to move a muscle, and answering "Yes, sir" and "No, sir" to his questions. Much later I wondered if he really could have thought that I was the intruder. And just now I'm wondering what his experience must have been like policing a relatively high crime neighborhood for him to respond to a breaking and entering call by aiming his gun at the person whose doorbell he rang. 

I have a habit of blocking out - submitting to self-imposed amnesia - traumatic events in my life. Lots of high school experiences, along with that night with the policeman and his frightening gun, live somewhere locked inside my subconscious. Those imprisoned memories escape sometimes when they are unleashed by emotional occurrences that render my defenses useless. 

Yes. I could probably use some (more) therapy.


This Trayvon verdict triggered a prison break - jogged a purposefully banished memory of my own interaction with someone who'd pointed a gun at me. Someone who looked like my brother. It's still fuzzy, but whatever my reaction was to this threat, I survived it because of any and all of the following: God's protection, my parents' coaching, my common sense, the policeman's effectiveness and maybe even luck. I'm thankful for all. 

But I'm also scared, saddened and disappointed that I and every other parent of a child of color - especially those raising black boys - has to teach their children what to do if someone means to do them harm because of the color of their skin and their gender. 

I'm smart and I'm not naive. But I honestly was not thinking I'd have to hammer this point home as hard as my parents did with me and especially my brother in the eighties. 

I'm up for the challenge and the responsibility because 1. It's the cost of parenting a black child, and 2. I really don't have a choice. You have to teach these hard lessons and pray, pray, pray to God that the stars align and your child will live to thrive, be happy, pursue their passion, and make a difference in this world. 

I was all twisted up inside tonight listening to MSNBC commentator Joy Reid, an African American parent of two sons age 11 and 13, discuss what to tell her children about the verdict. Her pre-teen son actually asked her what he should do if someone was following him and I identified with her feeling of helplessness as she struggled to come up with an answer. 

I also identified with my mother's response to the verdict: "I'm in total sadness, and motherly grief." As a parent, I was immediately moved by her words. The level of parental grief felt by Trayvon's parents must be a powerful hurt scraping the depths of their souls. I don't know how they bear the loss of him or this verdict. 

Parenting in general is no joke. In my book there is no more important and rewarding responsibility you can undertake. Some of the most serious parenting lessons that black parents MUST teach their children are those about how to be safe in this racially charged society. I think having to have these hard discussions makes some of us stronger, but they can also be damaging to our spirits. 

Race matters, people. It always has. And I don't see it changing in my lifetime or that of my daughter's. So to stay encouraged and vigilant, we have to keep ourselves around positive people, influences and organizations who are committed to justice, #Justice4Trayvon and everyone.

Listening to this panel on the Melissa Harris Perry Show discussing what it means to raise black children today, I am more conscience than ever of the need to stay engaged, active and prayed up. Because, like several of my Facebook friends who posted about arming their sons with a list of what to do when pulled over by the police, I have to be thorough in preparing my child for the dangerous situations she'll probably encounter.

Below is an article where a parent discusses how he is continually educating his black son about staying safe in this world.  Please share what you're teaching the children you parent, as well as the actions you're taking to stay positive, effect change, and continue Enjoyceinglife. 


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