When we first adopted our son as a newborn, complete strangers would come up to us to say he was the cutest baby they had ever seen. Many also choose, without asking permission, to ruffle and feel his hair. This latest throughout his toddlerhood and stopped abruptly when he was in the early school grades.
My daughter came along 16 months after my son, and she also got a lot of attention for her cuteness and later her burgeoning beauty. People often mistook them for twins even though my son was 3 times the size of my daughter due to the difference in age. I sold children’s designer clothes on EBay for a time and my daughter was often my model. People would write to me about my adorable model although they wouldn’t necessarily purchase the clothes.
Children grow up and although I think they are both exceptionally good looking (adoptive Moms can get away with bragging about their children’s good looks as we had nothing to do with them), they have reached young teenhood. For my son in particular, he is no longer the cute adorable baby and toddler he once was. He is now 15, 6′ tall, and 225 lbs. He is dressed like other teens his age, which includies hoodies on occasion. He has now become the “other”, at least in the adult world, someone to be feared and followed around in stores.
My daughter at almost 14 has an easier time at 5’2″, with a great fashion sense. Yet she too has been followed around in stores as though her skin color marks her as an automatic shoplifter. I have seen this in action with both children in stores. When I come up to them and greet them, my white skin seems to validate them in the shopkeeper’s minds and they quickly back off. It breaks my heart every time things like this happen as I will not always be around with my white skin and white privilege to protect them.
Do I get scared whenever there is a police or security guard shooting of an unarmed black teen, particularly when the shooter goes unpunished? You bet I do. I picture my own children laying in a pool of blood, the only crime being the color of their skin.
It is long past time to put the old prejudices to rest once and for all. If you adored them as babies and toddlers, why can’t you live and let live as they grow older, particularly if they have done nothing to arouse your suspicion that they are up to no good, other than the color of their skin. Yes #blacklivesmatter.
Sharon Greene February 14, 2015
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