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.