My baby is not the star of your nightmare

stephenOne Saturday morning, my husband, two kids and I decided to go to the car show downtown. It was a treat for my son, Stephen, who was 4 years-old at the time.

He loves toy cars, from Matchbox to Hot Wheels, and when he gets a new one, he holds it up to the light and studies its wheels, fender, slope and curve. He asks me to read the name of its make and model and when I pronounce the words he closes his eyes. It’s musical to him. Then, he repeats the name like its poetry.

In one of our family portraits all four of us smile bright, including Stephen, who poses with his favorite car in his hand.

At the car show, when my son saw the showroom of full-sized versions of his prized vehicles, his eyes lit up. He spotted a red sports car that had its door open for closer view and hopped right in. I stepped back and let him be the speed racer of his dreams. He smiled and pretended to turn corners and pass other vehicles.

An older white gentleman approached him and stopped to stare. I walked up and stood beside him. I looked up at the man to catch a glance and hopefully share a smile.

When I saw his face, though, he looked disgusted and seemingly angry that my son was sitting there.

“Driving it like you stole it,” he whispered and then walked off.

I reached and pulled my son out of the car and told him it was time to go NOW. My little 4 year-old was stunned, upset and pleaded to stay. I was relentless, though, and told my husband I was ready to leave right away. When I got in our car I cried. I couldn’t even hide it. I sat there and wept.

My kids asked me what was wrong and I couldn’t tell them. How could I?

How could I explain how anyone could seemingly hate my beautiful son who has big, bright brown eyes and a crooked, heartbreaking smile? Didn’t that man know that just about every day my son runs to me with arms open to squeeze me and kiss me on my cheek? Didn’t he know that my son’s dinnertime job is to say grace and his prayers are long because he loves to call out a laundry list of people he wants God to bless? Doesn’t he understand that we call Stephen the “animal rescuer” because he can’t bear to see any living creature hurt, even the tiniest of bugs?

Stephen is tall for his age. His doctor said he stands higher than 7 out of 10 boys, and also has a narrow waist and muscular build. As he gets older and taller and stronger, my prayer is that people will be quick to see him, my baby, and not imagine that he is the demonizing image from their supposed nightmares.

This country’s history of stringing up, dragging, and/or shooting black men without just cause, is a nightmare. No mother gives birth to, cares for, feeds, hugs and kisses, protects and sets free her son with that fate for him in mind.

Stephen is named after the biblical martyr who lost his life for the faith, but I pray to God he will never, ever loose his life because some gun-wielding madman sees a tall, muscular black boy and assumes he is a monster. He’s not. He is, and will always be, my baby.

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7 Replies to “My baby is not the star of your nightmare”

  1. That’s so awful… No one should have to experience such hatred. Just wondering, but did you talk to the organizers of the event? The man’s behavior is unacceptable and if he doesn’t want people of color looking at or sitting in his cars, then he shouldn’t be at a car show. I’m sure the organizers wouldn’t want someone prejudiced representing them at the show–it makes them look bad and discourages patrons.

  2. You over-reacted Marie. In the first place you should not have allowed your “baby” to jump into a car that was on display, open-door or not. That’s called good common sense and parental control. Secondly, that old white guy who muttered those words was just an asshole. Pardon my French. If you had stared him down he would have gone away, muttering to himself all the way I’m sure. You really need to take a look at your own stuff in this instance. The boy isn’t to blame. His mamma is…

  3. This story brings tears to my eyes as well. What an unhappy person that must be to express dark thoughts about an innocent child. I’d second the idea of speaking to the organizers if the man was involved in showing the cars.

  4. Great article and so sad that this happened. Please next time it happens (and unfortunately in our broken world it likely will), do not leave. Let that precious boy enjoy those cars. Your boy (and all your children) are blessed to have a momma who loves them so much.

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