Tuesday, April 3, 2012


My son called on Sunday and told me a story that left a big rock in my chest. I can't write it here. He was very upset. I wished I could have climbed through the phone and sat with him, pulled him into my arms like when he was small, and let him talk it all out. He felt so betrayed, so vulnerable. Endangered. This is how it is to walk through the world in the skin he's in. He knows it too. He is such a good kid. Maybe he is this way because he knows his conduct has to be impeccable at all times, because every black male knows that if it ever comes to it, no one will take his word above anyone else's, especially not when the other word is white.

I raised my children in Harlem. I counseled them on street awareness, helped them hone their spidey sense, taught them that whenever they saw trouble brewing, they should just move on—which my son wisely did on Saturday night. I used to consider our neighborhood not quite safe, but now I think perhaps my children have been safer here than elsewhere. Harlem is fairly gentrified these days, but when my children walk out the door, many people look like them, no one is trying to challenge their right to be here. It's true I can't ever count on my son getting a cab on a New York City street, or my husband for that matter, but these streets are theirs nonetheless, no one questions that. And if I really examine this more deeply, when it came to my son, I worried less about street crime than about cops mistaking my boy for a street criminal. Turns out the chances of that happening are greatly reduced in a mostly black neighborhood.

What the fuck is going on in this country right now? This race shit is exploding everywhere. I feel so powerless to protect my loved ones sometimes.

Never wonder why I pray.


  1. It makes no sense at all. None. Never has. I hate that your sweet boy was hurt like that.

    My son goes to a very diverse school, and so far, SO FAR he seems to be color blind. This makes me hopeful.

    My mother's side of the family (though not my mother) are deeply rooted in their racism. I have always felt ashamed of this, and have maybe sometimes overcompensated with my friends of different race or ethnic backgrounds...maybe I try to be too nice, or seek them out too much. Maybe I'm subconsciously trying to erase so many wrongs.

    On my father's side, the southern side, the side that strangely isn't full of bigots, a great-great-grandfather was a wealthy plantation owner before the civil war. He was killed in a slave uprising right when the war started. Part of me has always felt a quiet sort of satisfaction from that part of my family's dark history. I'm glad they revolted. I'm glad they stood their ground. I'm ashamed of those feelings, though, because it's not good to hold victory over any death in my opinion. Even the death of an evil person.

    Anyway, I'm sorry your sweet boy was hurt. I'm sorry that the world is so broken.

  2. Thank you, dear Chrissy. I so appreciate the fact that we can have difficult conversations here. I've had this post in draft for days, not sure whether to put it up. But I found I couldn't write anything else here until i did, it was that salient for me. I'm sometimes sad the the people who feel guilt at what transpires in the name of race are the ones who have nothing at all to feel guilty for. You have a good heart. You are part of the solution, never the problem. Just by being who you are you shed light around you. You help to heal what's broken. Love to you.

  3. I wish I had some wise words of comfort, but I don't. I'm commenting anyway just to let you know that I'm here, I'm reading your words, and I'm right there with you in being appalled by the racist horrors that do seem to be happening a lot lately.

  4. Damn. That sounds so heavy and awful. I'm sorry your manchild has to go through this. I am.

    Did you see when Soledad O'brien was talking about black parents having "the talk " with their black sons? About Cops and a code of conduct to keep from being cuffed and thrown in back of a paddy wagon? Just. . . .damn.

  5. I don't know what to say. We don't have racism like that in Canada. I can't begin to understand how the pigment of one's skin has to do with anything. It makes me ashamed to be a white person.

  6. dear ellen, thank you for being here. my husband is a natural scientist (an ichthyologist) and likes to point out that in describing species, the race is an entirely superficial aspect, it has no bearing at all. The human species is the only one on earth where race is so overpowering a factor, and it is all a matter of our consciousness about it, not nature. perhaps it is one of the things i find so powerful about this virtual place we share. it allows us to know each other under the skin. i am glad of that. in this place, and i think, in life too, we are sisters. the outer casing is unremarkable. hugs.

    kimberly, i sure did have the talk with my son when he was growing up. it's a delicate thing, because it somehow has to be paired with instilling pride in and love of self, no matter how others might see him. i know the walk you are also taking all too well. love to you.

    birdie, thank you for being here, too. you, sweet friend, need never be ashamed to be who you are. none of us should be ashamed to be who we are based on color. it is our hearts that truly matter. xo

  7. You know, I honestly think that the election of Obama has changed things. Not that it's inspired new racism, but that it's pulled the covers off the racism that is already there.
    Those who are SO offended at the idea of a black president have become more outspoken and more...angry...I guess, as they see that the supporting arguments for their hatred are proven false by this man. AND they can now say, "Look- we elected a black president. You can't say we're a racist society anymore," and then they go and do things and say things that they couldn't get away with before.
    Okay. I didn't quite state that as clearly as I wish.
    I am HOPING that all of this coming-to-the-surface racism is the last nasty-healing of the infection which has so deeply had us in its grip forever. That it does indeed indicate healing.
    Hoping. I would say "praying" if I did that and of course I understand why you do.

  8. Angella, this is a random aside, but I think it's too darn cool that your husband is an ichthyologist. What sort of marine life does he study?

  9. Ms. Moon, I think you're on to something. And I really like your hopeful sense that this is the last ugly manifestation of a centuries long infection. Maybe Obama's election ripped the band aid off, and now everything is laid bare. I do think it's a positive sign that people are at least willing to talk about this now. That has to be a good thing. xoxo

  10. Whatever happened, I feel your mother's heart tightening. I don't like it. The race shit does feel like it's exploding. I was expecting the opposite when I moved back here from Paris, but this here. This can't happen. It's all around me. It's young white and asian hipsters saying extremely racist things and feeling justified because they "have black friends". It's still not being able to get a cab (but much better than 15 years ago. Much better).
    I am fearful. I see young black kids on the subway and they get no compassionate look from anyone, they're looked upon as potentially threatening. And everytime, I become more and more protective of my community. I don't like what's going on and I don't like how it's making me feel "different".
    I hope your son is alright.

  11. Omg this put a rock in my chest too. I can't even imagine how you must feel, but I know that it hurts me too.
    you are wondrous.
    love d

  12. I feel so bad that he is going through this. And that my boy probably has a lifetime of it as well.
    Take care.

  13. Chrissy, he is something of a specialist in fish skeletons and also Vietnamese freshwater fish. Other things too, the names for which i do not know. Heck, I didn't know the world ichthyologist till I met him! But the way his eyes lit up when he talked about fish, well, i figured i should learn the word.

  14. Miss A, I am so sorry you are experiencing these racist comments, and your description of the lack of compassion for black kids on the subway just pierced me. i've seen it myself. people look at them as if they are throwaways, immediately suspicious. it must take a toll of a young person's psyche. my son says he's fine. but he isn't telling me everything. my imagination does a heroic job of filling in the blanks. i live with this ache. it's there all the time. a low grade worry. sigh.

    love to you, sweet one. i love when you come around.

  15. deirdre, oh hon, thank you. i can feel you feel it too. now just throw that rock right on away. don't let it sit there in your chest, stealing your air. i love you.

  16. dear mark, i don't worry so much for your boy. he has you. he has you. hugs.

  17. Angela, it can be such an ugly old world...living here in small town Ca I sometimes forget that but I feel your pain. I have always felt pain and confusion about racism having grown up a light skinned Puerto Rican, having light skinned people in my own family hating on my darker skin relatives. It made me hyper sensitive because people who don't know who or what I am feel they can say things they wouldn't say in "mixed" company, not knowing that thay ARE in mixed company! Its hateful and ugly and I'm afraid I'm not as hopeful as Ms Moon is. Wish I could be. Wish I could hold your hand . Well...I am holding your hand. Love,yo

  18. Not Rotton mom, thank you, sweet friend. With young ones out in the world, i know you know.

    Yolie, love, thank you too. I can feel your goodness and gentle strength. I am glad you live in a place where this does not confront you daily. please hug your sweet kable guy for me.

  19. Hugs to you and your son. I will never understand how he feels but I wish him all the very best and really wish he didn't have to deal with such things.

    Of course here in Azerbaijan I'm a world away from all the racism exploding in the U.S., though I lived through a good deal of it before leaving. Now I'm afraid to go back. At the same time I feel like I must go back because I have to take some responsibility for people who look like me spouting such horrifying garbage. Always happy to get up in a bigot's face.

    And I mean way, way up.

  20. Angella, I'm so sorry it has taken me so long to comment here. Thank you for being brave under the scrutiny of your family's eyes to post this. I felt this in my mother bones. The protect my child at all cost bones. It made me rage and want to find the offender and have my way with them. It made me want to protect your son with my whole heart. It made me afraid for my son and for everybody and it made my heart ache for you. You're extraordinary and so are your children. This is a busted fucked up world where the most egregious sins happen daily.

  21. I'm so sad for your sweet boy!
    Racism makes me sick. I live in Australia & it's no better here for our indigenous people.
    How can we be such a developed world & yet judge someone because they are different.
    Big hugs to you Angela & I'm also praying.

  22. I'm glad he was able to walk away from it. It's not new, the racism has been there. Now it seems to get called out more often, reported perhaps. I could tell you about things my son has had to go through but I won't. The fear is always there and the panic and the tears, just below the surface as life goes on.

  23. I wish I knew what was going on -- not just with race, but with every kind of judging and discriminating. It's no consolation, but those issues are simmering everywhere, not just the USA. I was glad to read in your subsequent posts that your son is OK.

  24. Angella, This has to be so hard as a mother, father. I had a full house this Easter. From Holy Thursday until Easter Monday afternoon, 15 football players and assorted friends of both my daughters played and joked and partied; laughing and teasing and rolling around like big puppies....real BIG puppies! I think of these boys as my sons. They call me mom and my husband dad. They call for advice and tell us their troubles. They are wonderful and loving and fierce and gentle. Some have known fathers but most have not. I would die for them. One thing that always amazes me is their nonchalance about racism. They seem to take it in stride because they encounter it daily but they also make light of it. They joke around and seem to let it roll off their backs. They love to tell racist jokes about themselves. They somehow have learned, or have seemed to anyway, how NOT to take it personally. It amazes me. But still, their roads ahead scare me. The ignorance they may encounter breaks my heart. My love to you and yours. I know your son will be ok. He has you.

  25. I just do not DO NOT get this. But I will hold out hope and prayer that it is getting better. We have to .

    And I am relieved your son is better.

    ( been basking in family time .. and a little down I'll admit. sometimes we elude ourselves into thinking we are all good to go and then we crash a bit. ... but I'm coming out the other side of it )