What I want you to know about being a mom to a black son

What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. Today’s guest post is by Wendy Laman Crawford.

This is my Jalen. This is my story.

This picture is how I see him in my mind every day. He is quite literally the happiest, friendliest kid you could meet and I'm not saying that because I'm his mother. Ask anyone who has ever met him and they will most likely agree.

I was recently asked by a well meaning, sweet friend that is just getting to know me, but was brave enough to ask the question if everything in the news affected me and why?

I told her yes. Everything in the news has affected me and still is...Deeply. Due to so many recent events, I knew that I have felt many emotions within trying to process everything, but I didn't realize just how much I was affected, until I full on lost my mind the other day when my son walked out the front door with his play water gun.

He came out smiling, attempting to help me with the groceries, but instead of being met with a thankful praise for his help, I lost all composure and yelled at him at him so harshly, because I became quickly aware of my possible reality. In an instant I was completely taken over with fear due to the fact that our front door opens up to a very busy street and we live directly across from the Police Benevolence Center and God forbid someone get the wrong idea of what was happening. That day, some of his innocence, along with some of my hope, was My sweet boy was so confused and I had scared him. As a mom, I felt terrible. I had to apologize for scaring him and sadly explain to him that he is no longer allowed to play with toy guns outside our home...just because it's just not worth the risk of anyone thinking it's real and the realities of what could happen next.

The same well meaning friend said, "But this would never happen to Jalen because he's such a good kid."

Though well meaning, that's not the point at all of what is happening in the world right now and I don't think the situations happening are all happening because time is being used to really see who is considered "good" or not.

Though everyone who KNOWS Jalen may love him, the current state of our world terrifies me when I think about what could happen if he's being perceived as being in the wrong place at the wrong time and is in a situation with someone who has the ability to act forcibly without proper assessment.

You see, I worry that an authority won't have the opportunity to know that due to his autism, when he is nervous he most likely will not stop talking when asked and trust me it can be frustrating on the other end when it happens ...so now agitation will be building and unfortunately to add to the agitation, his non-stop talking typically turns into him jumping up and down...sometimes frantically... and that his jumping can turn into being freaked out at the thought of being touched...and sensory overload will then make him flail and resist proximity or physical touch. All of this will come off as being argumentative and as resisting authority and we unfortunately know how this has been ending. My eyes hold back tears as I write this.

All the "what if's" scare the living life out of me. His natural responses to life could be the very justifications for excessive force and worse. It paralyzes me when I think of this scenario being a possibility. So though I understand why she wouldn't understand why I'm so affected because she's not raising a black son in this day and age, I'm appreciative that she was able to leave our conversation with a different perspective than when she first approached me.

The reality is, until it personally happens to you it will never fully be grasped. When your husband gets pulled over for NO reason, is harshly asked where he's coming from, and when given a response the officer then says, "doesn't a lot of drugs come from that way" as if drugs don't come from more places than just Atlanta, which turns into may I search your car, and then once he sees a FSU national championship ring...the entire demeanor changes and now everything is all good and let's hear all about it and now he's all smiles and in full on fan mode...knowing that night could have ended very differently...all with my son in the back seat...I'm thankful the tune of the story changed...but it's all just a lot as a wife and a mom to try to forget.

Listen, I have incredible friends and family that serve our country. I'm thankful for the ones doing their job well with a true respect for the oaths that they try to uphold every day. I know that every day their families don't know if they will come home either because Lord knows we've lost way too may good people in the line of duty. However, these incredible people are not who I'm frustrated with. I'm at a loss with the ones who act above their oaths and leave families broken unnecessarily, all while no justice is served on their behalf or even worse they try to justify anything to validate their rash behaviors instead of owning what was done whether in misjudgment or intentional frustration within the situation.

I am not some angry black woman looking to blame every and all cops or white people. That's just stupidity and immaturity for those that are willingly putting every and all of any one type of people in one category. Anyone who knows me knows that's not my M.O and even past that, I have both white family members and cops in my family.

So though some of you may be able to be annoyed when you see another hashtag or another post of the black community being outraged...or even reading what I have written, I hope you would ask yourself why your initial instinct is to be defensive, offended or annoyed versus empathizing with a community that is clearly suffering?

You may say, but I don't know those people, but for those reading this who know who I am and what you hopefully think of my family...I would hope compassion and an attempt to empathize with what my current reality and fears are the very least of an attempt made to help you see and understand a different perspective.

You don't have to own another's pain or struggle to acknowledge that it is real or to show compassion where there may be a lack of personal understanding. Love will win.
Romans 12:15

Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. My reality for my son being a black male is not one to be taken lightly right now. Every mom just wants their baby boy to grow up healthy and happy, believing that he can be anything he puts his mind to...I don't want to have to settle for just believing for the ability for him to be able to grow up.

This is my Jalen. This is my story.

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