When I was a child, I thought my parents were extremely unreasonable. In grade school, their strict rules kept me from going to classmates’ sleepovers, and any playdates I did have had to take place in our home. I attended a predominantly white Catholic school, and as one of the four black kids in my class, I already struggled to fit in. Being the weird kid who couldn’t go to anyone’s house didn’t help.
When I reached middle school, I watched my white friends receive more privileges with age, while my parents’ grip on me seemed to get tighter. When I’d ask my parents why I couldn’t stay over at so-and-so’s house or go to the mall with friends—without my dad coming and hanging out at the food court—the only answer I received was “You’ll understand when you’re older.” When I would argue that this or that friend had more freedoms than me, and that I was just as responsible and could be trusted alone, my dad would respond: “Well, you aren’t them.”
At the time, these rules felt annoying, but as I got older, I realized they were necessary. My parents had explicit conversations with me about how to behave with cops and about the racism I would face out in the world, the same conversations that many black parents across the United States have with their children. I came to see that their smaller everyday rules were coming from that same place of wanting to protect me from a racist society. I know every black parent hopes that police brutality and violent racism will never affect their children, but the recent deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor—and the police violence that has broken out in response to the protests about their deaths—remind me that my parents were trying to protect me from a very real threat.