Several people in my feed shared a news clip of Alton Sterling’s son bawling and crying out “Daddy!” I try not to be a look-away type, but I couldn’t bring myself to turn the sound on. The headline and a few seconds of silent video was enough.
I kept thinking of last year’s Homeboy Family Picnic, when a little boy temporarily lost his dad, a Homeboy trainee. The boy was maybe seven. He had a chubby face and a buzz cut; a smear of barbecue sauce had defiled his ribbed white tank. He was in tears, calling out “Daddy!”
“Who’s your dad?” asked the crew of women who quickly gathered around him.
“Raul,” he said.*
Raul had to be nearby, playing volleyball or grooving to oldies in the shade. But his son was inconsolable, despite the women’s assurance that we’d find Raul momentarily. He sobbed and sobbed until finally he stopped and threw up on the grass.
|This year's picnic. Families lost and found.|
Do you want to know what generations of institutionalized racism, poverty and the prison-industrial complex looks like? It looks like a seven-year-old crying so hard he pukes.
Someone found Raul, of course. A few months later, he was in a car accident that left him paralyzed. I heard he was having trouble summoning the desire to live. I can imagine how he might feel like life was too much of an uphill battle. You get your shit together, you leave gang life, you get a job, you raise your kid. And then this? I can’t blame him for wanting to give up. But I hope he hasn’t.
As America goes, so goes Facebook. Which is to say, it blew up. Yesterday my Parenting for Social Justice group was full of people trying to figure out what to say to their #AllLivesMatter aunts and uncles. I got into a thing on a friend’s page with a white guy who started calling Alton Sterling a thug. A black woman replied that her son and others had been harassed by police despite being well behaved and well dressed. The guy said every thug’s mother thinks her son is a good boy. I told him “Even yours, Henry” and dropped the mic no one had handed me.
Another friend posted that she wished she could give her daughter the world she grew up in, the safe one. For some reason that post in particular got under my skin. Maybe because I couldn’t dismiss it as a crazy racist rant—who doesn’t want their kid to run free in a safe world? Also because what she was really writing about was her own privilege and denial of history. She’s roughly the same age as me, and while we were kids, the Cold War was still kind of hot, we trampled through Iraq the first time, gang violence peaked, Rodney King got beaten and L.A. exploded and the McMartin preschool trial dragged innocent teachers through the mud. Just as many kids got killed and molested then as now.
|I remember driving past this school so many times, envying the amazing playground.|
I was going to tell you about our move. Last weekend we packed up the cats, the furniture, a million pairs of Cheryl shoes and a half million oversize toddler Legos and moved a mile southeast of our old place.
There are so, so many things I love about the new house, from the shady carport to the dishwasher (!) to the hot dusty attic, where you can tell it really is a hundred-year-old house.
But I think my favorite thing is the open kitchen/dining/living room area. This renovation was clearly part of its 2012 flipping. I remember learning at the Petersen Automotive Museum that you can track the role of the automobile in people’s lives by how garages got closer to the house over the years, until they became a part of it, in many cases at the very front and center. Kitchens are the same. Once upon a time, they were housed in separate buildings, mostly because they had a tendency to catch fire. Then they were kept behind the dining room, so diners couldn’t see the servants at work.
|"Servants' daily routine was considered hardly worth photographing."|
So I love love love that I can wash dishes or make tea while keeping Dash in my sightline. It’s safe, practical and homey, as all childhoods should be.
*Not his real name.