Matt Stauffer, a white guy married to an African American woman wrote this post after Alton Sterling was shot dead by a Baton Rouge, Louisiana cop in a parking lot.
“This is my family. The White guy is me. That’s my beautiful wife next to me, and probably the most incredible child to ever live, Chi.” Matt writes.
Chi loves superheroes. Every day when I come home, without fail, he asks if we can play superheroes. He puts on a cape, or his Captain America jacket, and prepares swords and wings out of cardboard. Some days we’re real superheroes–his favourites are Captain America and Iron Man–and some days he makes up superheroes based on things he’s seen in Dora or Wild Kratts, superheroes like “Cheetah Man” and, my favourite, “Super Chi.”
Chi brings joy into every room he enters. He’s creative, loving, and sensitive–more likely to give away a toy than to fight over it. There is so much good in that boy it brings me to tears just to consider it.
Chi is going to be 13. Not today, or tomorrow, or next year. But soon enough, this boy will blossom–awkwardly but beautifully–into a young man. He’s going to be tall. I’m 6’2″, and he’ll likely be close to six foot. But his skin will be darker than mine, his hair curlier. He’ll be raised knowing and loving his African-American heritage and family.
What I’m saying is this: I’m a White guy from the suburbs, and my son will be a young Black man. Soon. And I’m scared to death.
I’m scared to death that he’ll be in a hoodie on his way home from a friend’s house and a vigilante will shoot him.
I’m scared to death he’ll have a silly toy and an anonymous caller will bring the police down on him, and they will shoot him.
I’m scared to death he’ll get frustrated by cops pulling him over too often and he’ll talk back to them once, and they will shoot him.
I’m scared to death his tall, dark body will scare some neighbour and they’ll “fear for their lives” and they’ll shoot him.
I’m scared to death that, once someone shoots him, the media and the shooters will start pulling together a story that paints him as a criminal who deserves death.
And here’s the most important thing: I’m not alone. I haven’t talked to a single Black parent ever who doesn’t have these concerns for their kids. And their families. And their friends.
If you’ve never heard about “The Talk” that parents have to give their Black kids, you might assume it’s the classic “The Birds and the Bees” talk. It’s not. It’s the “How to Avoid Being Shot By the Cops” talk. “Don’t talk back.” “Keep your hands where they can see them.” “Don’t make any sudden moves.” This is necessary because we fear for our children’s lives. Regularly. Actively. Painfully.
Every new publicized instance of violence against Black bodies brings us new fear. “It feels like the world is trying to get rid of us,” my wife told me last night as we lamented another hash-tagged Black body. “It’s like our only options are either assimilation or extinction. They’re killing us and they’re killing our culture.”
When I was in middle school, I sagged my pants. When I was in high school, I dyed my hair and wore ripped clothing and wallet chains. I was a teenager! I was finding myself. And at no point did I or my parents worry for my safety as a result.
Chi will likely not be allowed to wear ripped clothing. He will not be allowed to sag his pants. He will not dye his hair. We will carefully guide what he wears and how he presents himself. Why? Because we want to protect him. We don’t want cops or neighbours to look at him and decide he’s a threat, and then shoot him.
A few of my Black friends shared on Twitter today about the precautions they take to try to avoid a bad police encounter….