In light of the horrific things going down in Ferguson, MO, on both sides; demonstrators and the keepers of order, I wondered what would have happened if Michael Brown's parents were white. Well, actually, as a white woman and mother of a now teenaged black son, I started to wonder if my color would make any difference as to how the police treated my son, were he to get into trouble.
The event that sparked this musing happened last Saturday night. My son, E, who will be 14 in a few months, asked me to drive him to the house of his friend, A. We live in W. Rogers Park and A lives in Logan Square. It's not terribly far away, yet in Saturday afternoon traffic, especially when there is a special event like the Air and Water Show, it can take up to 40 minutes in each direction if traffic is backed up on the Edens/Kennedy Expressways. I had just driven downtown and back for a client so I was tired and didn't relish the idea of sitting in yet more traffic if I could avoid it. I told E that I didn't want to drive him.
Much to my complete surprise, instead of having a tantrum, kicking and breaking my stuff, E responded by telling us that he would take the bus and meet A at the Western Brown Line station. Woo hoo! My immature little baby had taken a giant step of maturity. Unfortunately, later in the day, he forgot to be mature and responsible because we never heard from him or A until 9:15pm. I thought E and I had agreed to talk at 7:30pm. I called and got no response. I kept calling, getting no response, so I texted. He'll usual respond to a text. Nothing. Nada. Niente. I started to panic. I called A's mom and she hadn't seen or heard from A since he left to meet E. All she knew was that they were going to a show.
By 9pm, I was starting to become quite hysterical. Visions of him being stopped by the police for a WWB, walking while black, started to pop into my head. He's a big kid, he's black and he and A, of all his friends, when together, are most likely to get into trouble. I imagined that their phones were confiscated by the police which was why neither one of them responded to multiple calls and texts. I wondered if E had been arrested by the police, would they treat him any differently once they knew he had white parents? Might my color save my son from receiving an unwarranted beating sometime in his young life? What a terrible state of affairs that would be if that were the case. Chicago has been and remains one of the most segregated cities in the country where black kids of all ages get killed on a daily basis; either from random gang violence, domestic violence or police violence.
As it turned out, the boys went to see a movie and actually did as they were instructed and turned off their phones during the film. I finally got a 2 word text at 9:15pm; "Don't worry" but no other information, so I was still pretty pissed off. I finally got E to call me and found out where they were. They were fine. Everything was fine. I had overreacted. I looked to see if an app exists where you can tell where your child is, even if his phone is turned off. As far as I can tell, the phone needs to be turned on to track his whereabouts. I wonder if the technology will soon exist to track kids when their phones are off. I hope so, since I never want to spend another evening like I did last Saturday night.
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