Saturday, June 27, 2015

N------, or Let's talk about what happened in the park.

I've been a teacher for many years, and I've found that sadly, there are some kids that are just a@#holes. They are little a@#holes, and they probably grow up to be big A@#holes.

Another thing you should know is that my 9 year old son is regularly mistaken for an 11 or 12 year old. He's big for his age, and muscled and strong looking. He carries himself like a little man sometimes. A little, black man.

Yesterday was the last day of school and to celebrate I took the kids to the park to blow of their end-of-June steam. The sprinklers were on, and it was glorious. Daniel and his best friend promptly took off their shirts and got wonderfully soaked.  Lily raced around and I sat and chatted with a couple of moms I knew. Lovely, lovely.

At one point, I thought I heard Daniel shout. But I didn't see anything.

Then a few minutes later I looked up, and I saw my son - his 9 year old muscles clenched, head down, his broad brown back tense, his steps quickening and his fights tightening as he walked towards another kid- the little a@#hole, whom I knew from previous nasty experiences and who was taunting him with a water gun.

And then I was sprinting through the park, screaming "Daniel!" through this peaceful, happy little park. I screamed, and he came to me and he was safe. I heard mutterings of other parents around me, like "What was that?!" But they didn't see what I saw. They saw two boys having a water fight. I saw my son getting angry and going to hit the other kid. I saw my son (who did not have a water gun) being taunted. In my mind's eye, in an instant, I saw a fight. I saw cops, I saw Trouble. I saw Death.

This is not an exaggeration. This is why I sprinted across a peaceful park screaming. I must have looked insane.

Then the a@#hole kid taunted again, saying, "oooh, your mom got you in trouble." and I shouted at him to "Stay away from my kid!" Then I really looked insane.

I am normally a very laid back parent. My kids get into all kinds of scrapes and "learning situations." They get stuck on the top of the monkey bars. Their water balloons pop early. I don't go running. But my black son cannot get into fights. I've learned, because I watch the news and I know the stats, that black kids fighting is NO.  So I shut it down. I screamed for him and he came (and his bewildered friend). I looked in his angry, exhausted eyes and said, "I'm not mad at you. You are ok. I want you to stay away from that kid."

Daniel's sweet friend (who is not black) piped up, "That kid is mean!"

I said, "I know. Why don't you guys go play over there?" and pointed to the far ball field, which was empty.

They trotted off. I sat down and tried to slow my heart.

Later that night, Daniel told us that the kid had been racist.

I asked him, "Did he call you a nasty word?"

"Yes," Daniel replied.

"Do you want to tell me?"

"NO." said Daniel. "I'm not saying that."

So I knew.

It was a historic day, yesterday. A beautiful, historic day for America, which sorely needed a happy day.

 But in our family, a sadder milestone. Because some kid called my son a n-----er, and I was not surprised, and neither was he.


  1. Read this poem today and thought of you (though we've never met).

    Sunday's Poem
    (A little late)
    By Danez Smith
    1. smoke above the burning bush
    2. archnemesis of summer night
    3. first son of soil
    4. coal awaiting spark & wind
    5. guilty until proven dead
    6. oil heavy starlight
    7. monster until proven ghost
    8. gone
    9. phoenix who forgets to un-ash
    10. going, going, gone
    11. gods of shovels & black veils
    12. what once passed for kindling
    13. fireworks at dawn
    14. brilliant, shadow hued coral
    15. (I thought to leave this blank
    but who am I to name us nothing?)
    16. prayer who learned to bite & sprint
    17. a mother’s joy & clutched breath
    Read more about this poem and poet on the Poetry Foundation website:

    1. Thank you so much Jennifer. That is beautiful.


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