I just finished some errands and was walking through the playground next to my house and decided to stop and admire some of the flowers. the weather is perfect out today. as I was taking photos of the flowers I thought, “wow I’m so lucky to live next to such a lovely park. how peacefu this place isl.” and then as I was exiting the playground I saw the police had pulled up in the alley next to the entrance and my mood shifted. I remembered an incident that happened in this park back in September.
it was a Sunday. I had spent all day indoors cleaning my living room and then I suddenly heard this wailing coming from outside. screams and wails are pretty normal in my hood, there are a lot of kids around, so I didn’t think much of it initially. but it kept going, so I looked out the window and saw two kids, one a preteen, the other a bit younger, both black. the older kid was exasperatedly trying to get the younger child to come with him but the little one was not having it. occasionally they would stop and talk for a second but then the screaming would start again. I assumed they were related based off how they were interacting with each other. it was a really nice day and there were tons of people in the park, mostly white families. no one else seemed to be engaging with these two kids but occasionally folks would look in their direction. it wasn’t really a look of compassion or concern. just looking. it went on for so long I finally decided I would go out myself and see what was happening. like, I work with kids, you know? my day job is at a high school and I also run a summer camp for elementary school students. if I can’t help these kids in my own neighborhood then wtf am I even doing with my life? so I went out in my head wrap and sweaty clothes, and saw at this point the older kid had resorted to just trying to pick up the little one, who was still screaming, and drag him down the street. and I said “hey what’s going on? why don’t you just let go of him for a second?” the older boy stopped for a moment and said to me tiredly but firmly, “I don’t have to listen to you.” and I said “you’re right, you don’t. but clearly he doesn’t want to leave right now and the way you’re doing this isn’t working. so what if we just stop and talk for a moment?” and so he did, I managed to get them to sit on the curb with me and chat. he told me it was his little brother, that they had been in the park for about half an hour, but when it was time to go home, he freaked out because he was in trouble with their mom, and he couldn’t play his video games. the kid was crying next to us and so I turned my attention to him and just asked him some simple questions, and he started to calm down. it didn’t really take much. just some attention. they told me they lived just down the street.
we had been talking for about 5 minutes or so when I turned around and I saw three cops walking towards us. “oh my god, why?” I thought. why? why? in a playground FULL of adults, not just adults, but PARENTS, did someone decide that calling the cops on an 11 and 7 year old was the appropriate measure for this situation. not ONE of these people, again, mostly white, made any effort to help them or see what was wrong. and I got them to be quiet after maybe 60 seconds of speaking with them. and why were there three police officers for these two babies? I could probably pick them up with one arm. I was so angry, so disgusted. that none of these people could see the humanity in these children enough to be able to just take one moment and just talk to them.
thankfully this story has a decent ending. the cops were polite enough and offered to take them home. I asked the two boys repeatedly if that was what they wanted, and the little one said multiple times and firmly that he did. I guess he hadn’t developed a fear of the police yet. because I was afraid. I was afraid that I would have to die to protect those kids because grown adults are such racist cowards that they can’t take the time to help the children who live in their own neighborhood. they weren’t threats. just kids who didn’t know what to do with themselves. people in power use the police as weapons against black and brown people. in 2018 there is no way to feign ignorance about what can happen to a black life when a police officer is around, no matter what the age.
I don’t have anything insightful or loving to say about this. I haven’t seen those kids since that day. I hope they are healthy, I hope they feel safe. all I know is that my work is to protect and support kids like them. and I will do that by nurturing, not policing them.