Save The Children

D-Sel makes the point that Vernon Forrest's kid was in the car when these disgusting thugs tried to carjack him. That explains a lot about his aggressive response. The worst part of these sorts of incidents is you see yourself in them. People who make threats, in the presence of your child, will turn you into a different person.

This, for me, has always been a scary thought.

A few years back, I took my son to see Howl's Moving Castle down at Lincoln Square. There was a big crowd coming out, and trying to move down the escalators. My son, all of four at the time, was a little slow getting off, and an exasperated woman pushed him. You can imagine how it went from there.

The worst part, for me, was not the woman putting her hands on Samori, but some random dude who leaped in to defend her. There was a lot going on there. Rightly or wrongly, I think I perceived a racial element--the dude was white, and the woman was white, and here I am on the Upper West Side in a shouting match with her. I think I felt like he was jumping in on some Tarzan saving Jane shit, unaware that I was, from my perspective, trying to protect my son. We exchanged heated words, and as he got closer to me, I shoved him.

I remember him saying "I could have you arrested.' And me replying in very untypical fashion, "Do it, motherfucker."

I swear, I was not in my own head--but that "I could have you arrested" line made me aware of something that I should have been aware of the whole time--there was a four year old black boy watching this whole thing go down. I grabbed him, and took him outside, and we got in a cab.

By then I was no longer angry, I was afraid. I wasn't afraid of the guy, or the cops, I was afraid of myself. I am a fairly mellow guy, with a few pet peeves--people who don't know my child, putting their hands on him is one of them. What scared me was how quickly logic left me--all I wanted was to make this woman know, and then the dude know, that if you touch someone's child you better be prepared for them to touch you. In the crunch, I went back to what I knew--street law.

But street law won't do you much good after age 25 or so. Indeed what once would have protected you, could get you killed. What scared me was how phenomenally stupid I'd been. I know the rules--cop show up and sees this agitated 6'4 black dude who pushed this other guy, what's gonna happen? How is that gonna go? Not well for me, I knew that.

That was the weekend before I was set to start a new job at TIME magazine. I remember thinking how I almost blew it because I couldn't keep my head. When I was reading about Forrest, who was never a thug or a hot-head, I kept wondering why he'd been so aggressive with the carjackers. It's pretty clear to me, now.