Friday, August 29, 2014

End of summer

Yesterday our boy went to work and then came home with three friends in tow, two English boys and one American. The American is often at our house and it's always nice to see him. The English boys, too, are agreeable young men, getting a taste of the good old U.S. of A. after spending summer by the lake as camp counselors and before they head back home. Also last night, one of our son's best friends, his high school and college track buddy Jourdan, celebrated turning 23 in our living room with the rest of the guys. My husband and I were right in the mix of six young men downing a tequila shot in honor of the birthday boy, who plans to get a new tat this weekend, which led to everyone showing off their tattoo art, some of it quite exquisite. I wondered briefly if I was a bad example of a mother, drinking tequila shots with these young men as they bared their torsos to display their body art. Then I decided I didn't care.

Jourdan brought over another friend, a boy he'd gone to college with at the same school where my daughter now goes. A very bright and thoughtful kid. We had an impassioned discussion about whether Jay-Z should be doing more with his millions to help alleviate the inequities in society, and this kid made some compelling points, backing them up with examples from Jay-Z's lyrics and his life, and opining that when Harry Belafonte called the rapper out about being socially irresponsible, he'd had a point. (I'd missed the whole Harry Belafonte-Jay-Z kerfuffle, but hey, now I'm up to speed.) The kid went on to observe that racism is mostly covert these days, embedded in institutions and in the unconscious attitudes of most of us. Aside from the very conscious and deliberate vitriol that comes at our president on a daily basis, I think he's mostly right.

That cop who fatally shot 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri probably wasn't aware of the tapes playing out at a subconscious level that this Black youth was dangerous, even though he was unarmed. The kid had his hands in the air and was shouting, "I don't have a gun! Stop shooting!" Despite subsequent efforts to criminalize him, Michael Brown was somebody's child who was walking home to his grandma's house and was to start college in two days.

And the cops who shot 22-year-old John Crawford in the Beavercreek, Ohio Walmart because he was holding a BB gun that he'd taken from the store shelf, probably didn't consciously process that this Black man was just a shopper like any other. John Crawford cried out, "It's a toy! It's a toy!" as they pumped bullets into him. I'm pretty sure all the cops saw as they squeezed the trigger was the stereotype of black men as criminals that they carry around in their unconscious and now this construct was holding a gun shaped implement and so boom! boom! boom!

But I digress. The evening was a lot more lighthearted than all that. And even though four of the six boys in our living room were young Black men who need to be always conscious of how they move through the world, somehow we managed to engage in the discussion as an intellectual exercise and keep the mood festive. I think if we really took in the full extent of this summer's tragedies, we might implode. Self-preservation is an instinct.

Our son and his friends are all going off for a two-day concert somewhere in Pennsylvania this weekend. My husband and I will be unsupervised and we plan to kick up our heels and belatedly celebrate our anniversary.


  1. Just want to say that I enjoy reading your blog. It does bring tears to my eyes when I hear or read about the tragedies that inflict our society.

  2. Aw, Angella. What a beautiful post. First- hey- if it's wrong to down shots and look at your kids' and their friends' body art, I'm going to hell.
    Secondly- do you think there will ever be a time when racist thought is not ingrained in so many people? Anyone who says it's not now is either lying or has their head up their ass. It's one more thing that just makes me sick about our culture, our society. I yearn for a time when it's not a factor at all but it's not going to happen in my lifetime.
    Thirdly- oooh! Unsupervised anniversary celebrators! Y'all do it up!

  3. You are a WONDERFUL mother for exactly these kind of things.

    I love this post! The intellectual and the festive combined - that's how to engage life!

  4. I want to respond to Ms. Moon - I think that what will make that happen is when we all fully miscengenate. When we all have very close friends and family members of different races, then that's the only way racist thoughts will not be so ingrained. I think that's the key to why gay rights have changed drastically in just the past decade or two - almost everybody has gay family member, which became clear when people stopped living a lie and felt safe enough to come out. Suddenly social norms shifted drastically - and while of course there are miles to go, such a quicker pace.

    I think Angella's children are truly exceptional in so many ways, and unfortunately the kind of integration they have lived is not the norm in our nation.

  5. "...young Black men who need to be always conscious of how they move through the world." So unfair. So true. All the videos and stories surfacing blow my mind and break my heart.

  6. On the contrary, I think you're being a GOOD mother, downing tequila shots and admiring body art! Your son is a grown-up now, and it's fine for you to enjoy spending time in his grown-up company. :)

    I had not heard about that Ohio case. Gotta read up on that one. I do hope that police will get better about not seeing a young black man and being instantly fearful.

  7. I did a mighty fine job of hiding my art from my parents for years. When my mom finally saw my first tattoo (yes, I have more than one) while I was lounging on the couch during a visit home one day, I panicked. But you know what she said? "I want one!" And you know what? She surely went and got not one, but TWO tattoos not even 2 weeks later.

    You're an awesome mom. And this world, yes, is terrifying. But like you, I just have to keep it light to not implode.

  8. I think it's wonderful you have your son and his friends, all over 21, at home downing the shots and talking tats. It doesn't get much better, parent wise. I dispair of racism going away ever, after this summer.

  9. Catching up on your blog, and do you know I always reserve at least 30 min to go through and really READ it? I can't read it casually. I need to think. (That's a compliment ;))

    beautiful post.