It was just a normal day for my son and I. We went to the gym where he played in the child care center with other toddlers while I worked out. After, I stopped by Sephora for some goodies and then Prince and I ate on the patio at Yard House.
After eating, we walked to the park. He climbed, went down the slide multiple times, laughed his little heart out at the splash pad. Then he climbed into a tree house where two little white girls played in the "bakery" with fake cakes and other desserts.
Prince was just passing through. He was friendly. Surpringly, he's great at sharing and is excited to play with other kids, especially those older. As the two little girls (guessing they were four and five) looked on at my curly haired boy, Prince says, "Wow, cake!" I smiled because I always enjoy hearing him speak with such excitement, identifing objects. He then went down the slide and says, "Again!"
As he climbs up the stairs and enters the "bakery" the oldest girl says playfully, "Oh no, a robber! Don't steal our cakes!" I observe everything. The little girls reaction caught Prince off guard as he read her facial expressions. He was confused, wondering why she was hovering over the cakes with her arms and hands. The other little girl was also confused but was told to play along. "See, a robber! Get away from our cakes!"
The expression on my son's faces made my heart drop. He looks at the two of them then leaves down the slide. I ask him if he's ready to go and he shakes he head no and says, "Again!" He smiles and climbs back up to the "bakery." The oldest little girl playfully screams, "Here comes the robber! Lets get out of here!" And she pulls the other little girl along with her and they escape down the slide. Prince, completely unaware as to why they're running, chases the girls thinking they're playing with him just as his mom and dad often does.
But after the girls climb back up into the bakery, they decide to chase my son. "He took our cake, let's get him!" I lost sight of them, but the next thing I see, the oldest little girl is trying to pull my son's hands behind his back to "handcuff" him and that's when I lost it.
"Let him go, don't touch him!" The girls take off and Prince is sitting there confused. I pick my baby up and walk out of the park as tears began to run down my face.
You can call me "dramatic" or "extra." But as an adult that is very aware of the social climate in this country and in the world, watching my son be called a robber because he simply entered a "bakery" made my skin crawl. Was this my son's reality? Yes, right now everyone thinks Prince is the cutest and happiest kid ever but as I've told his dad, this is just a phase.
As my son grows big and tall (his dad is 7'3"), he will be judged solely on the way he looks. He will walk into a store looking to make a purchase but will be watched closely as if he has ill intent. I will not always be around to chaperone and shoo people away and I believe that is what broke my heart.
I hear it often from my non-black friends when they describe a black male teen or adult. They judge them on their walk, the way they dress, the way they dance or even their hairstyle. Black boys and girls are often robbed of their childhood. Black boys are often made out to be older than they are just because of their size and black girls are often sexualized because they may develop a bit "early." I think of a twelve year old Tamir Rice who was killed for just being a kid playing in his own neighborhood, somehow mistaken for a grown man with a gun.
Hearing terms like "ghetto" or "thug" makes me shudder. Judging a person based on appearance alone is incredibly ignorant and says more about the person judging than it does the person that's simply being themselves.
I walked with my son back to our car and drove home. I stared at him through the rear view mirror. He's so innocent and unaware of this cruel world but I'll do anything to prepare him to face it.