Thursday, July 14, 2016

Hearing Fear

I was eavesdropping, sort of, maybe.  I mean can you call it eavesdropping if you are two rooms away listening another person’s phone conversation?  I listened to the mother, I listened to one side of a two sided conversation, I listened to a mother express love…..and fear.

I didn’t know who she was talking to for sure, I figured it was a son, it sounded like a son conversation.   I listened to only her side but I knew what was being said on bother sides of the call.  I think her son was saying I want to go out; I want to go party a little with my friends.  I know the kid, he’s old enough, he’s as responsible as any college kid is, he’s a good young man on the verge of finishing college.

The mother said, that makes me scared.

I heard her end of the conversation, I heard her say that other good kids, good guys had gone out not looking for problems but that problems found them and they were dead.
The mother said she was scared.

I don’t ever remember having or hearing that conversation with our son.  I never had that conversation with my parents.  We told ours and mine told me, always respect the police, they are the authority, respect the authority.  We never felt fear.

Sure we worried like all parents, like my parents, that’s a parent’s job.  I remember worrying about wrecks, about bad behavior, about normal misbehavior.  I never worried about my kid being pulled over by the police, I never worried about my kid getting questioned for DWB (driving while black), I never worried not one time ever that my kid would be shot by the people we fundamentally trust with everything.

The mother was scared; she was scared about things I have never faced, fears I have never felt, fears I suspect, I will never feel, except for children like hers.

I could hear it in her voice, this was real fear, not feigned racial indignation, not noise for a nosy guy eavesdropping, she had no idea I was intruding on her conversation.  She was worried and has been worried, not only for her sons but her brothers.

She has had “the talk” with all of her sons.  Her brothers have had “the talk” with her sons, you know the one, the one where they tell these young black men to watch what they say, to watch how they act, to never question the authority of a law enforcement officer and to always keep their hands where they can be seen.

Is this real?  Is there a real danger to these young men, do they really need to fear for their lives from people we should always, always trust the most?  It doesn’t matter, it matters that a mother is scared. It doesn’t matter if you or I as white folk in America believe it; it is a black man in America’s reality. It is the reality of the mother of those black men.

I love the police and since I gave up a somewhat sketchy youth I am never too concerned about passing a police officer, though I always check my speed.  I am in awe of the job they do and could never do the societal duties we ask of them.

These brave men and women do a job most of us, frankly, would be too frightened to do.  Cops do dirty, hard, dangerous work every day to make the lives of other people better.  Law enforcement deserves our respect, support and appreciation.

None of that means the mother I heard is not scared.  None of that means her sons and her brothers aren’t in more jeopardy than my white son.

I don’t know the answer to the problem.  I am not that smart.  I do know the start of the answer, ask the  people that know the questions, do you fear, do you trust?

Then believe the answer, it’s real.