Some of the children questioned in this study were as young as four! Hard to believe or maybe not. I don't just believe it, I've been slapped in the face with it.
A few weeks ago my new neighbor, who happens to be a fellow nurse I've known for years, stopped by my house. Jacob and my nephew were outside riding their bikes...well my nephew was chasing Jacob as he rode his bike. Mary walked in and immediately began to compliment me on how beautifully decorated the house was. She went on to say how excited she was that my son and I were her new neighbors. Her son is also nine and hasn't had anyone to play with since they moved in. The other kids on the street are either a lot younger or a lot older.
The conversation flowed nicely. When Mary started heading towards the door I got up to walk her out. By then Jacob and my nephew were running up the driveway to grab their skateboards. I love kids.
Mary noticed Jake's bike hapharzardly thrown against the curb at the end of the driveway. She whipped around and quickly began to tell me to be careful with their bikes. Apparently, some thievery has been going on in the neighborhood. I think she said at least two bikes had been stolen.
On hearing this revelation, Jacob came walking up to me and Mary and said. Someone asked me if I was stealing the bikes.
Now what happened after that was a true Kodak moment. Mary, who's white...had I mentioned that before?...gasped very loudly. I looked puzzled and felt extremely pissed. How dare someone ask my child if he was stealing.
Did he look like a thief....or did he look like a thief ought to look? We, Mary and I, asked at the same time Who asked you that!?
He pointed to the house next door. My heart sank a little bit. This is the one neighbor that hasn't so much as waved at us in the nearly three months we've been in the house. Well, he didn't have to wave because he was about to meet me and I don't think he was going to forget that visit for a long time.
My nephew finally piped in and said I don't think he lives there Tee Tee. Someone drops him off and picks him up every day.
I asked my nephew what this person looked like. My nephew's response was priceless. He's white with blonde hair and he's about this tall.
Okay. I can handle this. My nephew might be four feet and when demonstrating what he meant by this tall....he placed his hand at his nipple line!
So, the culprit who'd asked the only black child in the neighborhood if he was a thief was probably three or four years old. Disheartening on so many levels but it's not the child's fault which brings up another question - if not him, who?
Society? Statistics? Racism?
Do you squeeze your purse a little bit tighter when a black male is approaching you? Do you lock the car door in a panic when a group of young black men are crossing the street? Do you frantically yank your kids out of the pool when a group of black children jump in to cool off on a hot summer day?
As painful as it is to admit, I've done some of those very things. Yet, I'm angered to the point of seeing red when I hear that someone has made the same assumption about my child.
So, what does that say about me? Can I scream foul every time an incident like this occurs in my child's life? Should I hold other racial groups to a higher standard than I sometimes exemplify myself? Is it okay for me to be cautious when I see someone that looks suspect as long as I don't reveal it to anyone?
What the hell is suspect, anyway!
In that question, I fear, lies part of the problem...
*What do I see when I see someone's child?