March 19, 2012

The Quiet Burden

It was nine years and a few months ago, but I clearly remember telling my OB that we didn’t want to find out the sex of prenatal Georgia. We said that we didn’t have a preference. All we wanted was a healthy baby, and that was true.  But not completely.

Deep down, I wanted a boy.

Not because I envisioned a star athlete, but because girls are talkers.  Sometimes even lippy.  I just didn’t think I was up for the task.  Didn’t think I had the chops for it.  More than that, I had reflected on my experience as a boy-crazy black teen in a predominately white school:  I was “too black” for some white kids and “too white” for some of the black kids.  So, there was no dating in high school. None. It did wonders for my self-esteem. Then I remembered being on the karaoke circuit back in the day (when I could stay awake past 10:00p) and having to tell deejays that, while I liked Aretha Franklin, my style was more Patsy Cline or Grace Slick. None of this bruised me for life, but I didn’t want my kid to go through it.

I thought of all this today because I read an article about a topic – no, a person -- that’s been blowing up in the Twitterverse.

Trayvon was a 17 year-old black boy who was visiting friends in a gated community. Upon seeing Trayvon, the community’s blockwatch captain called police about a suspicious person. He was told that a squad car was on the way. In the meantime, the boy and the blockwatch guy had a fight and boy ended up dead.  According to this article, Trayvon was armed only with Skittles and iced tea. The person who thought this boy was “suspicious,” the one who shot him, was white. This shooter hasn’t been charged with anything, and it seems like he won’t be, either.  Puzzling. Sad. And conversations about racial profiling are on again in full force.

Anyway, the article made me flash back to my mom’s routine talks with my older brothers about being careful when they went out for a night on the town. I can still hear her voice: “I don’t want you to end up like Ernest Lacey or Daniel Bell” and “I don’t ever want to get that call.”  Daniel Bell was stopped by the police in the 1958. Ernest Lacy was stopped in 1981.  Both ended up dead.  My brothers would "yes-mom" her with eyes-rolled. They’d kiss her and dash out the door; and it seemed as though her teeth were clenched until she knew they were back home safely -- no matter how late.

Back in the 1980’s, having a son stopped by police and "mysteriously" die while in custody were real fears for Milwaukee mothers of black sons. By 2002, I guess I was so far removed from that history that, despite having two brothers, I had forgotten this quiet burden carried someplace in the subconscious of all moms, but especially by moms of black sons.

If I could talk to my pregnant self, the one who secretly wanted a boy for all the wrong reasons, I’d ask that naïve mom-to-be if she had the strength to navigate the sometimes scary territory that moms of black boys travel.  But I’m not sure of what her answer would even be.

It’s something she never considered…until she read about Trayvon.


  1. My heart goes out to this family, it truly does. When I read about Trayvon, my heart just sunk. Some people will simply never learn. It's disgusting.

    This is very heart-felt. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Thank you for reading and hearing my thoughts on this.

      For me its just a memory, but I realize it's so much more for the families involved; and it makes my heart ache for all of them.

      ...just no easy answers, ya' know?

  2. Thank you for sharing this. It's a hard story to hear about, but it's one that needs attention. We think we've come so far, as a society, and it's things like this that remind us how much further we still need to go. So heartbreaking.

    1. Thanks Lisa

      We do have a ways to go, but just the fact that we're able to talk about it says that we've come a long way. Obviously...and sadly, what happened to this young man and the ripple effect its probably causing in the other man's life says that, yes: there's a lot further we need to go.

      Thank you so much for reading...for listening. :)