It has occurred to me that only some boys are “allowed” to be boys, according to the common adage.
When I think of what happened to Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis, what I think is that these were two young men …being boys. Teens tend to do dumb things in general; teen boys, no matter their color or ethnicity, do even more dumb things…It is part of growing up. Some of us get out of our teens safely, meaning we don’t get killed or injured or wind up in “the system,” but many of us, unfortunately, do not.
Michelle Alexander, the author of The New Jim Crow, said on Saturday that “all of us are sinners, and all of us are criminals.” What an incredibly simple yet profound statement. All of us, surely, have done something that puts us in both those categories…yet it seems to be black and brown males who seem to end up in prison or dead for …just doing “dumb boy stuff.”
I remember hearing the story of a young black teen who lived in Chicago, who, with his friends, took up a dare that they could all outrun an oncoming train. Dumb. Dumb. Dumb …but that was the challenge of the day. There were about six boys in the group. All of them made it…except for one, who tripped and fell, and before he could get up, the rambling train had run over his legs, amputating them both.
I hear stories about this all of the time, as I am sure many do, but what bothers me, again, is that black and brown boys don’t really have the luxury of being …boys. And what’s worse, it feels like the white police officers know exactly the mind set they are dealing with. They know what boys will try, what they will smoke or when they will fight …because these police officers have done the same “dumb boy” stuff themselves. They have done what they are chasing down these black and brown boys for r, and have gotten away. Now, they are in positions of power. It feels like they have never been too fond of black or brown people; it feels like they have totally bought into the opinion that black and brown people are bad, stupid and lazy, and they use their power to reign these young men in for doing exactly as some of these police officers have done in their lives …if not worse.
When it is suggested that police officers take some diversity training, or get some kind of training that will help them deal with the communities in which they immerse themselves, there is pushback; they are miffed, it seems, that anyone would suggest that they need training to deal with …common criminals…and yet, they do need something . These police officers go into black and brown communities armed with guns and misguided and misinformed perceptions. They go in believing that the black and brown people with whom they deal are inherently bad as opposed to being humans who need help and protection like everyone else.
These white officers know that kids use drugs. My son used to tell me that at his high school, a very good high school in the suburbs, was full of drugs. Chances are these police officers have used or are using marijuana …and they know how boys get together and smoke to “have fun,” and yet they round these boys up and herd them into the system. The huge numbers of black and brown people in jail and prison, especially black males, for non-violent drug offenses, supports my observation.
What to do? How do black and brown parents raise their sons? They certainly are not allowed to “be boys” as the white boys are allowed to be. So …what does a parent share? When my son was a teen, I gave him “the talk” on how to act in public, what to say, do, not say and not do, if he were ever stopped by police. He got through…but so many of our boys do not.
When I think of Trayvon and Jordan, I think of boys …being boys …defending their manhood, standing up for themselves, in the wake of being challenged by other men who challenged them …just because they could. I believe Trayvon was frightened by being followed by George Zimmerman and decided to “stand his ground” and protect himself…and I believe Jordan decided that no white man was going to tell him how loud he could play his music and he challenged Michael Dunn’s demand that they turn the music down in their car. Boys. Being boys. The white men against whom they came against took up the challenge. It was a pissing contest … as men will often engage in …but both Trayvon and Jordan …and so many more young black and brown men …lost. I mean they lost the ultimate – their lives.
Yeah, “boys will be boys,” but black and brown boys and youth are highly at risk when they do that. And unfortunately, as the white boys and men whom they confront do the “boy thing” too, it is the black and brown kids who too often end up with the short end of the stick.
A candid observation …