Jabran was ten years old when I gave him the first racial profiling speech. We were engaged in the obligatory back-to-school shopping. He wanted a sweater that had some hip hop insignia. I looked at him and said, “Honey, if I buy you this sweater, NYPD is going to pick you up.” I was a public defender in Manhattan at the time so I knew of which I spoke.
Last year Jabran had his first devastating racial profiling incident by a white man in the neighborhood. Jabran, in a way that would put many adults to shame, handled this act of violence with impressive aplomb. But, when we were finally home together, my child unleashed a flood of tears and fears that almost caused my undoing.
Jabran’s life, and mine, changed forever that day. We both knew the shift occurred. Many people would no longer see him the way we see him -- a smart, funny honor student who, at age 12, and of his own volition, decided to take a First Aid class so he could help my sister with my niece who has cerebral palsy. But, what if he wasn’t even any of those things? What if he was a struggling black child, subjected to one trauma after another, just trying to survive? Does that child deserve any less protection? All of our children matter but many people only see black boys (and later, men) as threatening figures whose sole purpose is to, at best, feed the coffers of the prison industrial complex, or, at worst, not exist at all.
keyboard shortcuts: V vote up article J next comment K previous comment