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Running Through It: Wishes for a Black Teenage Son

Cathy, a Colorado-Springs-based BAMR and mother of three African-American kids, was generous enough to share her insights as our nation struggles with how to reconcile omnipresent racial injustice. [Read more Running Through It columns.]

It was mid-March when the stitching of everyday life began to unravel, thread by thread. I think when I stopped using a calendar, the free-fall began. Other than the date on my Garmin, time began to have very little meaning. No appointments, no school pick-ups or drop-offs, no sports practices, no classes at the gym.

Suddenly, my days became reruns of one another. I would try to work a little, help with school if my teen needed it, cook and cook and cook some more. (Our dishwasher gave up and broke 20 days after the one-year warranty expired, because of course it did.) I felt untethered by the lack of variety in my days, which was startling. I found out quickly that slowing down is one thing, but life coming to a screeching halt is entirely different.

And then, on May 25, the death of George Floyd, and time imploded.

Before I go any further, it is important for me to say that I am a white woman who carries a ridiculous amount of privilege. I move through the world in a way that shields me from a whole lot of difficulty. I can not speak to the experiences that a person of color has had, and I will not try to.

I am a parent who wants to raise healthy, kind, open-minded kids that grow into healthy, kind, open-minded adults. In this moment of time that feels frozen and stuck and overwhelming, my dreams for my children are no different than yours. The main thing that sets me apart from other white women who are trying to do the same is that my children are black.

I feel lucky that my youngest son loves to run.  This sport has been a form of escape for him and (selfishly) for me, his biggest fan. Even though he is one of just a few black runners in our state in the sport of cross country, he has embraced it whole-heartedly. I experience pure joy when I see him laying it down out on the course. His red singlet clings to his sinewy frame, and he flies past me in a blur. I cheer until I’m hoarse. For those few minutes, he’s just a kid running, and I’m left racing against the clock to try to catch him at the finish. He’s good enough he earns the respect of others who are watching him.

It’s a different story when he goes out for a run in our neighborhood, in a hoodie, and I count the minutes until he is home safely. “How long will you be gone?” I always ask him, and I am left behind to wait, while time spools before me in an endless line of uncertainty.

He will earn his driver’s license in a few short months, and he will join his older sister and brother and every other black driver in the United States who must learn how to respond if pulled over by the police. He will have to continue to navigate living in a world that is suspicious of him, makes wrong assumptions about him, and based on statistics, values his life less than those of his white peers.

I have dreams for him to run in college, and I have a more important dream that he will still be alive at the end of college.

As hard as it is to believe right now, there will come a day when the current headlines will be behind us. We will move forward to business as usual. It will feel as if the stitching of our lives has been sewn up neatly.

But hopefully not too neat. As we sew together the frayed fabric of our justice system, I hope we see the patched areas for what they are. Part of a broken system and a marker in time when we began the work to fix it. Our greater calling is to do the work to better ourselves, educate ourselves, and empathize with the groups of people who have been oppressed for far too long.

My son’s calling? It should be as simple and carefree as running as fast as he can. We all know it’s not, but we can work toward that ultimate finish line together, one step, one mile, at a time.

2 responses to “Running Through It: Wishes for a Black Teenage Son

  1. So well written, thank you for contributing. I too am a white woman and in raising a biracial soon and daughter. I was always concerned for him but not as he prepares to get good license and head into senior year, the burden in my heart is even heavier. My husband and I try to teach him to be aware of how things are, not to be scared. And we pray that all that is happening will be a catalyst that will change what the future looks like.

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