May 2000 — I had missed my period and suspected I might be pregnant. A couple of grocery store pregnancy tests later, I knew that a little human being was growing inside me. I called the doctor’s office the next day and they asked me to come in a few weeks later.
Those weeks were amongst the most exciting of my life — but at the back of my head, I worried about my brown unborn child. I wondered if I had made the right decision to bring a child into this racist world.
The weeks flew by, I was lucky enough to not experience any nausea or the negative side-effects of pregnancy. I was sailing on clouds, imagining that at every second, every minute, my body was creating a miracle, my body was creating a whole new life.
My first appointment went well, my husband and I were moved to tears when we heard our baby’s tiny heart beating strongly. The doctor printed a small photograph of the fetus that lay in my uterus, peaceful, and undisturbed by the busy world around us.
In my fourth month of pregnancy, the doctor asked us if we wanted to know the sex of the child. I was keen on knowing whether I was having a boy or a girl not because I wanted to decide on a color theme for the baby’s room. I wanted to already start mentally preparing myself for the challenges my brown child would face. I knew that a brown boy might have a harder time in the world than a brown girl.
The ultrasound showed us that it was a healthy boy — we were overcome with happiness. But already lurking at the back of my mind as a black mother was how my son would experience his life. I immediately knew that if he decided to live in certain parts of the world, where police brutality against black men was rampant, I would never be able to get a sound night’s of sleep ever again.
From the moment my son was born, we made decisions that would guide his life to live in a country where his life would be valued and where his existence would be in the least danger possible.
As he grew, I secretly hoped that he wouldn’t become too tall, too big, too overpowering. I didn’t want him to appear intimidating as I knew that this could mean the difference between life and death in certain situations.
My level of worry even touched on issues such as the music he listened to, the friends he had, and things as innocuous as his haircut. Because clearly, if he listened to gangsta rap, ran with the wrong crowd, or had dreadlocks, I knew that he was more likely to be stopped by the police.
For those of you wondering, yes I do realize that it is a bit sad to censor my son’s tastes, but I’d rather do this than have him end up in prison or even worse at the morgue. As the multiple cases of police brutality show, there seems to be a price to pay for being black in a white world.
The harsh reality is that even if on paper, black people have the same rights as everyone else, in the real world, we are judged differently by law enforcement and other people in positions of authority. Situations can easily escalate, unfortunately.
Just the other day, my 17-year old nephew was stopped because he had omitted to purchase his tram ticket. One thing led to another and he found himself at the police station. They thought he was an illegal migrant and thought it best to restrain him. He was highly-traumatized by the experience. So yes, when I say things can get crazy really fast when you’re a black or brown person, I know this to be a fact.
Today my son is 19, a tall handsome boy. He is of medium build and still has a bit of a babyface. He dislikes bullies and has often said that if law enforcement tries to take advantage of him, he will speak back. This simple thought frightens me immensely. I’ve told him that he needs to never question what police officers say or ask him to do, even if it doesn’t make sense. He tells me:
“Mum, I have rights, why are you so afraid?”
Yes maybe, I am too afraid. But wouldn’t you as a black mother be too? I try to convince myself that things are changing, that society is more accepting of black and brown people.
And then I think of Ahmaud Arbery that liked to jog, a bit like my son who loves to jog too. And the fear I feel in the pit of my stomach is intense.
And then I remember those images of George Floyd calling out for his mother — when he felt his body shutting down and death lurking, he desperately called out for her. At that moment, did he wish that he could return to the safety of her uterus, peaceful and undisturbed?
Thank you for reading my perspective.