As A Black Mother, This Is What Keeps Me Up At Night

Last Halloween, I took my kids’ trick or treating in my very much majority-white neighborhood.

We were around the corner, just out of view of my house, when a police car started riding slowly down the street.

I froze.

I kept one eye on the car as it followed me and my kids and I had to murmur to myself that I had done nothing wrong, that I was doing exactly what everyone else was doing (trying to enjoy the holiday with their kids). We kept walking and the police officer kept following us for a few more houses. Then they parked and got out the car.

“Want some candy?” they said, gesturing toward the bowl of candy they held in their hand.

I breathed a small sigh of relief but I didn’t respond. My kids darted over and grabbed some candy. I let them. (It was Halloween, after all and getting as much candy as you can is the whole point of the holiday.)

The police officers then walked down the street to catch up with the other trick-or-treaters and offer them candy as well, stopping to chat with the other parents, cracking jokes and doling out compliments on the kids’ costumes.

I, however, was shook. Because I thought I was about to get harassed for being black in my neighborhood. 

This is a real fear.

When I was sixteen and learning to drive, before I even learned how to parallel park or even merge onto a freeway, my parents drilled it into me that if I was ever stopped by the police I was to be slow and deliberate in my movements, keep my hands on the steering wheel and say, “Yes, sir” or “No, sir” to any interrogations. They just wanted me to get home alive.

And in the years that followed, I’ve been pulled over more times than I want to think about, usually for things like speeding (37 in a 35) or a broken taillight (that ended up being a 20-minute stop). And I always hear them in my head, “I just want you to get home alive.”

Because the reality is, for me, as a black woman, coming home alive after an encounter with the police is not a guarantee. Just typing that makes me want to clutch my children and keep them in some sort of bubble, but honestly, how do you parent like this? How do you make those decisions for your children’s future when you know there are people out there who will dislike your children and put obstacles in their way no matter what you do, simply because they are black?

Case in point: We moved to this city because they have one of the top public school districts in the state, for many years running. Most parents want that type of opportunity for their kids, right? Right. The trade off for that is that there are few black children in the schools. Sacrificing diversity for opportunity, when I wish I could have both.

The first eight months of my son’s kindergarten year, he received nothing but glowing reports. He was always on “green” (good) or “blue”  (great) on the class behavior chart. Always. His teacher gushed about how much she loved having him in class. Other parents would ask me how I got my son to listen and get “green” every day.

Then in May, my five-year-old son was sent to the principal’s office for throwing playground pebbles at the cafeteria window. (The window did not break.) I got a call from school immediately after he was sent back to his classroom, with the principal keeping me on the phone for 15 minutes to discuss what happened. She told me that he would also lose recess privileges the following day.

It didn’t make sense to me, because up until that point, he had been in time out in school exactly one time:  in preschool, he refused to listen to the teacher when she said reading time was over and he kept reading his book. So now he’s graduated to trying to damage property? It didn’t make sense.

Not only that, but she told me he wouldn’t admit to throwing the pebbles. He repeatedly said he didn’t do it. I talked to him when he got home from school that day and I believe him, as he is one of those children who will tell you they did something, who can take discipline without lying to avoid it.

However earlier that year, when a (white) classmate pushed my son on the playground, resulting in my son having a bloody nose and needing to go to the nurse’s office, I didn’t even receive a call. I only found out because there was blood on his coat when I picked him up and his sister happened to see it because they share a recess period. The classmate got a verbal warning to keep his hands to himself. No loss of recess that day or the next. No visit to the principal’s office. No phone call to Mom.

I’m finding it much more stressful to help my son navigate school than I ever anticipated. But it’s not just school. It’s his extracurriculars. It’s his friendships. It’s his trips down the street by himself.

All of this is just tumbling out of me because I’ve never really put it out there before. The post, “I’m Afraid To Raise A Brown Boy,” touched on these fears, but that was a guest post. This one is all me. All my fears and nervousness alive and on the web. I just want my children to be safe, to be nurtured, to be uplifted for who they are.

I don’t think it’s too much to ask. But what if it is?

I don’t want to wallow in the feeling of hopelessness because it’s not hopeless. We can fight for our children and we can do something to ensure their lives and experiences are valued. We can.

We have to.



  1. Chills. I feel the exact same way. I feel kike I wrote this post. Your thoughts and fears mirror my own. It just shouldn’t be this way.

  2. It scary, the idea of raising a Black man in this country. And heartbreaking.

  3. It is a scary thought. I have a 4 year old boy. my husband and i are raising him in brooklyn, and to see and hear all the news about these kinds of issues, makes me want to keep him in the house until adulthood. it takes prayer and knowlegde. i wish you and your the best

  4. This is so….
    I remember the day my son was born and looking at his face and feeling all of these things. I remember the feeling of “what have i done” coming over me and leaning in and kissing him as i said to myself “God help me!”