Last month, the youngest member of our family turned 13. Like many other parents when their child reaches the milestone of officially entering the teenage years, I had a range of emotions, from being a little sad my baby was growing up to not looking forward to all those rather annoying things that come along with being a teenager.
Along with looking more like a teenager than a child usually comes an increase in privileges such as downloading certain social media apps and extending bedtimes. There is also another milestone for black parents especially those who are parenting black boys. We have to talk to our boys about conducting themselves as a black man in America.
Samaria Rice, mother of 12-year-old Tamir Rice who was killed by police officers while playing with a toy gun, along with ACLU has comprised a booklet to help African American children know how to respond which approached by a law enforcement officer.
Tamir was just one year younger than my son when he was perceived as a lethal threat and gunned down by an officer. So the week my son turned 13, we went through what to do if he was in the car with anyone and is pulled over by the police. Hold your hands in the air or place them on the dashboard. Don’t reach for your phone. Don’t put your hands in your pockets. Don’t play with toy guns, just to name a few tips I shared with my son.
This reality for African American children extends beyond just interaction with law enforcement. This also extends to how they conduct themselves in the classroom or even at the mall. So while one part of me is loving watching my son grow into a young man, the other part of me is a little scared every time I drop him off whether at school or to visit friends. We prepared him the best we can, but we still wonder if what we have taught him and will continue to teach him will keep him safe.