Our neighborhood has a Yahoo Group so we share information on contractors, share local events and most importantly, find out who is old enough to baby sit!
Today I checked my e-mails around 5PM and read this message which had just been posted:
Two young teenage african-americans are roaming our neighborhood trying to sell what looks like event tickets I did not open my door - please do not open your door - should I call anyone in the light of recent break in? Do I call 911 or just the police office number?? (fyi- it was an attempted break in at 3AM. No one was apprehended.)
I thought to myself- call the police, really? Why not ask who they are and what are doing/selling first?? And why are you so afraid of teenage African-American boys? My mind raced forward 10 years, I imagined Henry walking with the two other teenage African-American boys in our neighborhood and I thought this woman is ready to call the police because my son is black. My mind quickly races back to the present.
Right now Henry is 4 yrs old, many see him as a cute novelty, adopted from Ethiopia. Okay, some see him as an orphan rescued by his wonderful, loving, and saintly parents (we ONLY meet the loving criteria and we did not rescue him).. but how people see Henry will change. As he grows older his adorable preschool cuteness will be gone and he will be a handsome teenage African-American boy. He won't be holding my hand or yelling from the backyard- Mommy look what I can do!! He will be "hanging out" in our yard, or walking in our neighborhood with his friends who may be African-American boys and someone may call the police because they assume he doesn't belong in our neighborhood or that the boys are up to no good. This is racial profiling. For the first time in my life I feel it in a deeply personal way, I sense the ugliness of it and I know I must do something.
I picked up the phone and thought what am I doing?? I set the phone down but I KNEW I must talk to this woman. I calmed down enough to call this neighbor. I have never met her but she said she knew about our family. We talked about the e-mail, about the fact that two of our children are not white and we cannot assume these teens are up to no good just because they are black teens. She apologized for any offense I had taken to the e-mail.
Two hours later she came over to our house to introduce herself and apologized in person. As Henry and Merone stood next to us we explained that we want our kids to grow up in a neighborhood where they feel safe and our neighbors do not think of them as threatening no matter their age. She said she could see it from our side now and she was sorry she reacted the way she did.
You might be wondering what the teenagers were doing in our neighborhood. They are football players from our high school selling merchant discount cards which will benefit the equipment fund.