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What I Wish Other White Jews Knew About Raising A Black Son

Like all Jewish parents, I worry about my child’s safety. But as an adoptive parent of an African American young man, I have worries that other Jewish parents don’t have. My son, Benjamin, faces risks that people who look white do not face.

If my son enters a store, he can expect to be followed. The owner may he assume he is likely to steal something. There are many places he might go where people will not assume he belongs there. At a Jewish event, it is unlikely that he will see anyone who looks like him.

But my biggest fear for my son is that he will encounter violence, especially from the police. When he was in middle school, he and some friends were playing basketball on the school grounds at dusk. The police came and ordered them to leave. But it wasn’t just one officer or one police car that came to enforce the park rules — it was six police cars that converged on a few sixth graders playing outside their school.

Parents of black children must have a special talk with them that white parents won’t ever need. We have to give warnings you will never think of:

• Don’t run in a neighborhood where you aren’t known. Someone might think you are stealing something or chasing someone.

• If you are stopped by the police, stay calm and be respectful, no matter what the officer does or how he talks to you.

• Always keep your hands where the officer can see them. Any sudden movement could be your last.

The death of Philando Castile demonstrated that even these precautions may not be enough to keep our child safe.

Recently, many incidents have come to light in which white people called the police on black people who were doing nothing wrong, just because they were in a place where the caller believed they do not belong. George Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin for that very reason. People with white children can generally trust that their children will be safe and welcome wherever they go. As the mother of a black man, I can’t.

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