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Ughhh, make it stop!

Via TPM:

Toward the end of many days last summer, with my boys home from camp and still needing to expend their youthful energy, they would run outside and play war games with their remarkably authentic-looking squirt guns. As they roamed the nearby yards and streets in my Waltham, MA apartment complex, I never for a moment feared that someone would call 911 and report them as threatening men with guns, never worried that an arriving police officer might shoot first and ask questions later (if at all).

At the center of the complex is a small community pool to which I’m a member and at which many of the complex’s kids spend a good bit of their summers. It’s an easy walk from my townhouse, and the boys will be old enough this summer that I anticipate sending them down the street to the pool ahead of or even without me sometimes, letting them experience another summertime pleasure that I remember from my youth at the pool near my home. In contemplating this summer plan, I’m not at all concerned that they will be treated as part of a dangerous youthful mob, will have guns drawn on them by overreacting police officers. […]

While each individual situation brings its own specifics, the underlying lesson across these two incidents and so, so many others seems unavoidable: In 2015 America, African-American parents cannot possibly send their children out to play without genuine fear for their safety and lives, from the very authorities tasked with protecting them. That last point is particularly horrifying: When Emmett Till was lynched for appreciating a pretty woman, his killers were private citizens operating entirely outside the law. Tamir Rice was killed, the McKinney teens were threatened and manhandled, by representatives of that law.

I, like my sons today, did these sorts of things as a young person: played with toy guns, got out of hand at the pool sometimes, acted like a boy. Being a kid is (or should be) one of our society’s most privileged positions, and there are few privileges of childhood more meaningful than the opportunity to play without worries, to enjoy a summer day on its own relaxed terms. This childhood luxury is becoming painfully, unmistakably intertwined with white privilege.

Ben Railton is an Associate Professor of English at Fitchburg State University and a member of the Scholars Strategy Network.