Condolences to the George Floyd family, but it could have been me
My newly-adopted son, four years old, small for his age, very dark, very black, already knew his place ... in 95 degree heat, he wore a long-sleeved shirt.
“Why?” I asked, “don’t you wear a cooler shirt.”
“I don’t want anyone to see my black skin ...”
“Mom, why do people call me black? I’m not black! I’m brown!” It’s just a manner of speaking,” I replied. “Why?” he asked. “Don’t they know their colors?”
Waiting on the corner for the kindergarten bus; noticed by the apartment dwellers living on that corner, who described to the police his attire. A knock on my door; police.
:Your son vandalized a car and broke a pair of prescription sun glasses.”
“He’s at kindergarten,” I replied.
Bus driver interviewed; teachers interviewed; bus driver verified time he got onto the bus; teachers verified his attendance.
Visit by apartment owner. “He got away with it ... this time!” the man angrily announced. Weeks later an arrest. White teens admitted to the vandalism.
Attendance at a banquet. Wife of dignitary spoke to me in low voice, no eye contact. “How could you adopt? How could you stand to look at the results of someone else’s illicit sex act, day after day?” Silence. I am speechless.
Ice cream store incident. Elderly woman offended that my son’s cone was dripping all over his clothes; then asks, “Can’t you do something about his hair? It looks just like pubic hair!” Silence. I stare in disbelief.
On vacation. Passing through Nebraska. Warned not to get off the Interstate and to only stop at truck stops. Blacks not safe. Stopped at truck stop to eat lunch with my two boys. Waitress calls the sheriff. Sheriff stares at us with hands on his guns. Waitress empties the food we ordered onto the used plates of the family who just vacated an adjacent booth, gives us their half-used water glasses. We eat our food, drink the water. Relieved no one followed us when we left.
Hate stares in St. Paul restaurant. Son spills his food. Declines later offers to eat out.
Visit friends with son in South Minneapolis. Park on street one house away. Neighbor later calls my friend and asks, “Who was that black lady who came with her little “N---- boy?”
Fast forward to son at age 14. Police knock on my door. Same story as kindergarten. Car vandalized. Description of my son by witnesses, who describe my son and the clothes he is wearing.
“He’s at school playing field hockey,” I say. Police ordered me into police car. Police walk onto field and loudly interrupt game. Coach attests that my son never left the school grounds at the end of school, teachers say he was in school all day. Coach shouts at police, “Get the hell off my field.” Son mortified. Never again plays field hockey.
Owner’s husband of music studio where I teach offers to help me with some home repairs. Comes to my home. Graphically tells in front of my sons how he and his buddies castrate a young black man in Nebraska when he was a teen. He giggles throughout the telling. Thank God my boys didn’t know the meaning of the word “castrate!” A few days later I resign my position without explanation.
Police accuse my older son of being a pimp trying to get his girlfriend into prostitution; visit the girlfriend’s parents. Death threats against our family. Terrifying. Neighbors shun us. Help from Lutheran Social Service, which has a program for pimps and prostitutes. Try to tell parents the police are mistaken. Girlfriend’s parents move out of state. Later my son and his girlfriend marry, actually bonding through this incident.
Asked to testify at Mayor’s police/minority commission. Outlined multiple incidents of police misconduct and harassment. Deans of three law schools present, promise me support.
Policeman says to my son after my testimony, “your mom is trying to get me fired!” Son comes home and asks how to reply; he returns and says, “She doesn’t want you to get fired. She just wants you to act like a human being.”
“I have two back sons. I took in numerous other black teens who lived on the streets. It was George Floyd they killed. It could have been my sons. It could have been the black teens who sought refuge in my home.
It could have been me! And I am blond, blue eyed, Scandinavian. I have PTSD.