My Black Son Could’ve Been Shot By Police In My House
By ANITRA DURAND ALLEN
We are living in a tenuous time in America. The racial inferiority premise on which the country was founded is resurfacing in everyday encounters like never before. And according to some, life in urban areas is so bad for Black and brown people, we will get shot just for walking down the street.
Contrary to what many people would believe by my appearance, I am a college graduate, with an engineering degree at that. Both of my parents have PhDs. I have never lived in “the hood,” and currently live in a highly sought after suburban neighborhood. I drive a Volvo. My daughters go to the best schools in the city. I’m what one might call a “safe Black person.”
So, a response I often get regarding my very real fear for my husband and son is, “But you’re a law abiding, college educated citizen living in a well to do suburban neighborhood. What have you got to fear?” Or in other words, “You’re not one of them.”
From where I sit, though, there is no discernible distinction between my husband, my son, me and whomever “they” might be. I’ll illustrate this for you in a story from my real life.
Trevone—yes, my son’s name is Trevone, like Trayvon, but that’s a story for another post— once came into the house after school listening to his iPod, as teenagers often do. Not hearing the beeps from the alarm system over his music, he forgot to deactivate it. When the company called in to say, “We received an alarm. Is everything OK,” he forgot the verbal password. Doing the job I pay them to do, they dispatched the police.
Annoyed by the situation, he called me to tell me what happened. I immediately went into a panic. The police will find my “big, scary, black man” child in a $350K home with a tripped burglar alarm. How would he prove he lives there? Would he even be given that option? Will they see him in our family picture on the wall? Will they ask him for his key? Will they believe he hadn’t stolen it? These questions and many more raced through my mind as my heart rate rapidly increased.
My first response was, “Don’t answer the door.” But rationale kicked in at the notion of my front door being kicked in upon their arrival. My second response was, “Open the door and be as compliant and respectful as possible.” We see how far compliance got Philando Castile. After a few more minutes, which felt like hours, I remembered that he had just gotten his state ID. Still too young for a driver’s license, he needed the state ID to complete his summer traveling. I told him, “Show them your ID. You should be fine,” and breathed a momentary sigh of relief. Then I rushed home as soon as I could.
Thankfully, the alarm company was able to get in touch with my husband and he alerted them that there was no need to send the police. I didn’t learn this until after the panic had come and gone.
If you can read this story and not believe that at 15 years old, my son could’ve died in his own home for being forgetful, even after proving beyond reasonable doubt that he lived there, you are being willfully ignorant about the realities of Blackness in America. Time and time again it’s been proven that Black men are not given the benefit of the doubt when it comes to law enforcement.
There is a lingering and pervasive fear of Black men in America. It was planted during slavery, cultivated during Jim Crow, harvested during the Civil Rights Era and is being served daily at tables across America. And until it is no longer being served, I will continue to hold a reasonable amount of caution and fear for my husband and son. I am afraid for them, because “they” are afraid of them.
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Anitra Durand Allen is a corporate defector and project management aficionado who helps busy moms get stuff done. She overshares her opinions on family life and blogs about strategic family management at www.themomonthemove.com. She is a blissful wife and mom to super kids #OliviaAllen and #AwesomeAlexAllen. Find her as @themomonthemove on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
Very real. Very real indeed. I often engage in this same conversation with my peers. I’m likely approaching the end of my child-bearing years, but I would love to have a child one day. But, I am fearful. Fearful to be a mother to a Black child. Wow. Just to utter those words…
Very real indeed. I must say the joys outweigh the fears, but the fears aren’t to be ignored.
Wow! So glad things turned out okay for you and your family. This is a sad reality that we are currently living in in America, the fact that it’s 2016 and we still have to be afraid that this can happen to our loved ones is crazy. Peace and love to you.
I agree. It’s such an emotional time to be living in America.
I understand, they see us by our color. They don’t see our education, accomplishments, salary, etc. Just brown.
My son is at that age where I worry. He is tall like an adult but he is a child. I have to teach him and role play so he knows how to come home alive.
Powerful! May I share this? As a white mom of black pre-teen sons, I get the “but that will never happen to YOUR kids” more often than I can count as if by virtue of having white parents, they are immune from the world seeing them as black boys-soon-to-be-black men.
Your son’s experience is terrifying, and too true. So thankful it ended up okay!!
Hi Karin! Please do share this so that eyes can be opened to the reality of raising black males in America. Praying safety and protection over yours as well as mine.
This was so good and a great reminder. My 14yr old son does not know the code, but he will know it tonight. I’m thankful you guys were able to take care of this before the police were summoned.
It’s the things we don’t think are harmful that can hurt is the worst.
Wow, Anita. You told it so very well. I am thankful that I live in a place where race is not an issue. I have experienced it in my travels abroad to the US and the UK and always wonder how minorities make it in such places. Just from following the news I would think the fear is very palpable for black Americans.
It’s an interesting phenomenon Carlana because it’s always in the back of your mind, but you’re never really prepared when the moment comes and you have to face it. Palpable indeed.
I’m glad your worst fear didn’t come true! It’s sad that we even have to think that way.
Many of my friends have son’s and their worries are the same. I agree with Ashleigh that it is sad that in 2016 and we still have this going. In fact, it’s getting worse than over. My aunt was just saying the other day about getting stop and getting out with her hands up in the air. It’s sad that as of now it’s our reality and the world we live in. Thanks for sharing!
You are right. Anymore we have to worry about not just our sons but all of our relatives and friends.
I’m so sorry this happened to you. This is a fear that many of us have everyday and I’m at a loss as to how to process these feelings. I’m so glad the worst didn’t occur. Thank you for sharing your story.
The first start in processing the fear is acknowledging it and talking about it. In going this piece gives people the platform they need to start the conversation.
Wow, enjoyed your piece. I pray over my children every day especially my son.
I think your concerns and fears are understandable. There are times I have these same concerns with my teen son. I pray things will change for the better.
Me too Don. Me too.