Are you on your way home?
It’s around 9:40 p.m. last night and I’d just sent my 26 year-old daughter a text message. She didn’t respond, but a couple of minutes later my phone rang. She told me that she and her friend were headed to Applebee’s (ewww!) for something to eat before heading back home, which was about two hours away. I sighed the bone deep sigh of mothers all over the world and tried not to fuss.
“Okay, just don’t stay too long.” I knew I sounded ridiculous, she’s 26 for goodness sakes, but I couldn’t help myself.
“We won’t, we both have to drive two hours to get back home.”
I hung up the phone and went back to watching Archer. I decided I’d stay in my chair for another hour and then I’d get in the bed to wait for her call to let me know that she had gotten home.
Earlier that day, I’d reminded her not to rely not her Garmin for directions, to use Google maps too. Even though Dothan, Alabama was where my dad grew up, she’d never driven there by herself. It was also going to be dark when she came back, and although she was grown, there’s just something about dark Alabama roads that gave me the heebie-jeebies.
“Do you have the directions to where you’re going?”
“Mom, why are you talking to me like I’m twelve?”
“I’m not! I just know your Garmin takes you out of the way sometimes. Besides, have you heard how your grandma talks to me? She talks to me like I’m a kid all the time and I’m almost 50!” I couldn’t see her, but I knew that she was rolling her eyes; hell, I was too.
“I’ve got my Google Maps directions in my phone mom. I’ve got this.”
“Okay, okay. I just worry sometimes. You’ll understand if you ever have kids one day.”
It was in that moment that I realized that I’ve become my parents. It wasn’t the first time that we’d had this type of conversation, but this felt different. Perhaps it was the fact that I now lived 500 miles away and couldn’t get there quickly if something happened. Or perhaps it was my own memories of riding down Highway 431 as kid and remembering how many folks had lost their lives playing chicken with log trucks. Or maybe, just maybe, I was thinking of Trayvon, Reika, Tamir, Michael, and all of the other Black kids who’d left home on an innocuous trip to the store, to the park, or an outing with friends and never retuned home.
Yeah, that’s it.
The world has never been a safe place for Black and Brown people, but these days, I’m afraid for us in ways that I’ve never been before. I’m from the Deep South, and currently live in North Carolina; I’m no stranger to quotidian racism and its bedfellows, or the KKK and other white supremacist groups hellbent on purging this country of what really makes it great. No, I’m more concerned with how they’ve been emboldened by 45’s election, as well as how difficult it is to hold law enforcement accountable for its racist behavior. What that translates to is fear for my daughter’s life if she gets a flat tire, gets lost, or gets pulled over for a speeding ticket. Either of these events could result in the end of her life.
I sure hope you’re on your way home. It’s now 10:53 p.m. The Black mama in me is growing more and more impatient. I don’t want to project my fears onto her, but I hope that she realizes that the world ain’t safe for us.
Yes, I am, she texts back, along with a side-eye emoji to let me know how annoyed she is. I don’t care. I’m her mama, and it’s my job to worry.
Are you home? It’s 12:55 a.m. and I realize that I’d dozed off.
Ok. I sit up in bed, root around under the covers for my iPad, and start playing Candy Crush. Thirty minutes later, I hear my cell phone ding.
Finally! Yay! Now I can go to sleep. At least until the next time.
I want my daughter to enjoy her 20s, what should be the most carefree period of her life, but as a mom, as a Black mama, I worry constantly about her safety, and for the safety of all of the Black and Brown folks around me. Just the other day a young Black man came to my door selling magazines. He said he was doing a survey for school, but I knew there would be an ask at the end and I wasn’t buying whatever it was that he was selling. When he left though, I said a little prayer for him. I live in a relatively diverse neighborhood (for this county), but most of my neighbors are white. And while I’d like to think that no one here would call the cops on a Black kid going from door-to-door, doing what college students all over the country do when they’re trying to earn a little money, I’m not sure that’s the case. So I did what lots of Black mamas are doing these days for their own children and the children of strangers, sent up a few words and hoped that he’d make it back to wherever he came from, safely and without incident.