Random Brain Dumping

Musings and observations about life

A black mother’s worst fear

Not long ago, a black man asked me to bail him out of jail. The problem was twofold: I was broke, and he was locked up because of something he had done.

Trayvon Martin

Trayvon Martin

He had not been arrested for being a black man. He was arrested for assaulting someone.

I didn’t bail him out, but too often, black men, black boys, black people are arrested for being black.

Sometimes, they are singled out because they are black.

Picture of Hip Hop artist Common in a hoody.

Grammy winning musician and actor Common dons a hoody in support justice in the death of teenager Trayvon Martin.

I recall one of my sons being suspended from riding the school bus for being disruptive. I asked for a meeting with the principal and bus driver, as this was not a disruptive child.

At the meeting, I asked the bus driver if my son had been doing anything that the other children had not been doing.

All the children had been unruly that day, she said.

When I asked how she had been able, then, to single out my son, she said that when she had looked in the mirror, she saw my son nudge another boy.

My son got suspended; the other boy didn’t.

When I asked how that could be, the driver said she had caught my son in the act.

My next question got to the heart of the matter.

Could it be, I asked her, that when she looked in the mirror, her eyes naturally went to the one person on the bus who didn’t look like the others?

You see, my son was the only black child on the bus. We lived in a suburb of Tampa, and the neighborhood kids were bused downtown to a magnet school with strong academic and arts programs.

The Tampa Bay area’s population at the time was 10 percent minority – all minorities.

On a bus that held dozens and dozens, my son was the only minority.

He stood out.

I learned the statistics from the principal, who was quick to point out that the school did not practice discrimination, an accusation I had not hurled.

Children in hoodies

Children in hoodies

The driver took offense.

My response was simple: My son had been easy to spot in a sea of lookalikes. Maybe he hadn’t been the instigator.

The driver conceded I could be right. The principal acquiesced.

My son rode the bus the next day.

As the mother of sons, I’ve often worried that one day they would be singled out for being black, that something would happen that couldn’t be explained away as simply.

Something like the shooting of Trayvon Martin, the Florida teen, armed only with Skittles and iced tea, killed in February by volunteer neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman.

President Barack Obama said this about the shooting death: “I think every parent in America should be able to understand why it is absolutely imperative that we investigate every aspect of this and that everybody pulls together, federal, state and local, to figure out exactly how this tragedy happened.”


It’s a tragedy that every black mother of a son, particularly, fears could happen.

March 26, 2012 Posted by | Random Brain Dumping | , , | 6 Comments


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