Anyone that truly knows me, knows about my son, Bam. Bam is 12 years old. In person, he definitely doesn't look his age. He's very active and carefree. He's a good kid. Good manners, courteous, helpful, with a great heart & pure intentions, smart and handsome. He likes Starbucks, jumping off of things, rides his bike, skateboards and does tricks on his hoverboard. He plays soccer, football and runs track. It's a pleasure being his mom. Bam is my only son.
We live on the Upper West Side and here’s the day-to-day “mini world” we live in: I don't let Bam go home from school alone yet, because he goes to a good school that's in a bad neighborhood. I still have to know his friends before he goes with them, he still doesn't talk to strangers and when he goes out to play, he has a time limit, most likely within my sight and again with friends I know. He doesn't spend the night at anyone's house unless it's family or very close family friends and I'm probably staying too. On alternate weekends, if he takes too long to call me after he goes with his father, I'm calling them both up until I reach him. And I always worry until he comes home.
Needless to say, I've been called overbearing and in some cases, admittedly so, but what else am I to do? All of this time I've been trying to protect him from bullets, gangs, bullies, strangers and molesters and other predators, but now I have to protect him from the police? Predatory police officers are like wolves in sheep’s clothing. In that case, that means I'll never be able to protect him.
Let me get this straight: I've moved into a better neighborhood and it still won't be enough. I make sure that he has golden opportunities to shine and be a better version of himself every day and it's not enough. You mean all I can do is pray? You mean all I can do is teach him to be a good person, help him live a good life and give him tools to be successful and just hope that the predatory police officers don’t pluck his life from this earth?
Right now, I'm all over the place in my mind because I'm all about being positive and helping my son maintain the belief that life is good and if you work really hard and stay awesome, you'll have a great life. But the reality is, not everyone lives that way. There are people that want your LIFE, that hate you, not because they know you and genuinely don't like you, but people that see Bam, this bright-eyed innocent boy with the sparkling personality, somehow his skin color really scares them.
I've always been street smart, able to access a situation based on the energy in the room, perceptive enough to have us quickly exit if I sense danger and able to fight for him if I ever needed to. I've taught my son to be that way too. I pride myself on being a good mom. I still believe that it takes a village. I've raised my son in this Upper West Side village bubble, with great people, low crime with great opportunities and while the mini world I'm protecting him within, there are still predators that want to take his life. And now I have to school him on the predatory police officers that may lurk inside of our village.
I need for my UWS Village to understand that this world needs more than good moms. This world is screwed up and in 6 years when Bam is 18, I'll probably be just as overbearing. He'll have to call me constantly when he's away in college, I'll probably move to his town when my first grandchild is born and I'll probably give my daughter-in- law a hard time. In these times, that's if he makes it to that part of his life. And when he has that life, his life still won't matter to someone that doesn't value his.
But my while my heart breaks when I think about the things that I’ve protected him from daily can still take him out, looking or not, there are the predatory police officers that can take him from me, from you, from this world. Those predators that have sworn to and supposed to help me protect him.
Don't get me wrong, all police officers are not all predators, I have friends and family that are police officers. People I trust him with and love him like I do. There are our neighborhood patrolmen and patrolwomen that we see everyday in our village that as long as I see them, he could go a little more out of my sight. So I can't send him the double message that the people wearing blue with badges on their chests are the Boogyman that I'm supposed to protect him from. I work really hard to give him a good life and a care-free existence. The reality is that I can't protect him and neither can my village. What can we really do?
First, I need for my village to hold it together and maintain our strength and resolve to keep each other and our kids safe. I need us to stay strong. I need for no awkward small talk conversations to pop-up on the playground and on the track, football & soccer fields about, "Did you hear about (insert black victim's name here)?" Or blurt out, "But All lives matter, Right?” or have awkward silences and pretending that the ills of the world regarding the predators in blue can't reach our village bubble and the insanity of the "outside world" doesn't exist for us. I need for us to be conscious and not in denial. I need for us to be more proactive in prevention of injustice instead of waiting for something to happen to one of us to stir the community to action. I need us to really talk about it. Problems, outrage and solutions. I need for us to be a force in holding the Powers That Be accountable.
Next, I need all of the police officers to hold each other accountable. Stop this wall of silence and solidarity. Stand up for what's right and denounce what's wrong. It starts one police officer at a time.
I need for the veteran officers that are training the new officers to bring out the best in their novices. Help them discover and empower their heartfelt need to help the communities that they've sworn to protect, instead of instilling fear and perpetuate the myths of negativity associated with dealing with black people. I need for them to remember that we are not the enemy. I need for our neighborhood patrolmen and patrolwomen to reach out into the community and reassure us that they're going to continue to uphold their sworn, "Protect and serve" and will make sure that that is the message that our kids and parents will pass on through the villages of the rest of the world.
And I need for the police not to be the enemy. I need that for me. I need that for our village. I need that for my Bam. Our villages have enough to worry about.