Conversations: 500 Words of Reality from the Mother of a Black Teen

I was sitting at my desk working, I could hear the outside sounds. The conversations that you hear without even meaning to are interesting. I overheard one of my son’s friends asking his mother to go to the corner store with my son. I knew not long after this conversation was over, I would get a knock at my door and an invite for my son to go to the store.


“Ma! can I go to 7-11 with David?”


“Sure, Honey, here’s some money bring me back an orange juice. Don’t talk to strangers. Don’t be rude to the cashier. If anyone bothers you, find the nearest police officer or call 9-11. It’s hot today, are you wearing sunscreen? Maybe we can go to the pool later.”


“YES! Can I invite David to go to the pool with us?”


“If his mother gives him permission, I don’t see why not.”


This felt like a standard conversation between most parents and their teenage sons before they leave the house. However, I know that for me, and my beautiful brown-skinned boy. This conversation is much longer.


“David! Get dressed Sam’s on his way over here! He wants to go to 7-11 with you.”

“Yes! Can I have money for chips?”


“Okay, but don’t overeat you guys are going to go to the pool later.”

“Can I bring the squirt guns to the pool.”


My heart pounds. That is over 1000 feet to the pool, 1000 adult steps, 2000 teen steps, holding a gun-shaped toy. 1000 feet for anything to go wrong, 2000 steps to be seen by a nervous neighbor. Five minutes for them to make a 9-1-1 call and one split second for them to shoot my beautiful brown-skinned, boy in cold blood. He would go from being my beautiful son to a hashtag. I would have to live another 18,250 days without my baby because I let him walk 1000 feet to the pool with a toy gun.


“Sorry son, not this time. Are you ready to leave? What are you wearing? Go change. Your pants are too big, and it is 100 degrees outside. Remove that hoodie from your head. You are not leaving here until you put on pants that fit, and you remove that hoodie. Don’t talk to strangers, don’t be rude to the cashier. If the police bother you, remember what I told you. Let them see your hands at all times. Comply then complain. Do not wear anything that covers your face, do not reach for anything in your pockets. If they give you instructions, you do it. Do not run, do not talk back, I don’t care what your friend is doing; he is not you. If your friend is doing foolishness, you leave him there. What’s my phone number?”


“It’s 626-653-3649.”


“David this is not a game do not roll your eyes at me, what is the goal every day?”


“To make it home alive.”




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