10 Seconds by Onnesha Williams

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A quest for socks has shaken me to my core. It happened while getting the boys ready for their day. They have the responsibility of dressing themselves and doing a small chore before they can get to the fun of being out for the summer months. They have both accepted this responsibility well and my youngest (at age 5) constantly exclaims that he wants to “do it all by myself” as many preschoolers do.

This day the independent charge was finding his socks. As he begin to look in his dresser for a pair, I quietly assisted by going into the living area to look in a pile of hodge-podge socks in a laundry basket and that’s when I heard a commotion and a sound that resembled toys spilling out of a toy box. I was not alarmed, thinking that there was an accident that needed to be picked up, until I heard my baby boy repeatedly call my name, “Mommy, Mommy!” I heard fear and rushed to the sight of him under his dresser, which had fallen on top of him.

After quickly picking it up and telling him to move out of harm’s way, I picked him up and looked him over to see if there was any major injury. Thanking God that there was no major injury and after he calmed and told me he was okay, I could only hold back tears as I was more than grateful that this was not a fatal or serious situation.

All I could think was: I had only turned my back to go in the other room for 10 seconds…..only ten seconds.

I am speaking on this very personal incident that happened days after Crystal and I decided to change our blog schedule to address the recent tragedies that have gained attention in the media. One incident, a black couple whose 3-year-old son fell into a gorilla exhibit during a trip to the zoo causing the death of the gorilla. The second incident, a 2-year-old child of a white couple who was taken by an alligator and later found drowned while the family was vacationing at a Disney resort.

Crystal and I both noticed the difference of public opinion surrounding both couples and wanted to talk about this with each other and our audience. As we discussed this, I begin to feel very mixed on the issue. On one hand the black couple received immediate personal attacks. The black dad, who was stated not to have been at the scene that day, had his criminal background displayed as though it was relevant to the incident that occurred. On the other hand, the white dad was described in the media as an upstanding citizen in his community, which also had no relevance to the incident that took place.

So it comes down to this: what role does race ultimately play in the public opinion of parenting?

To say that it does not play a role is being naïve. Simply stated, I directly asked Crystal if she felt responsible for all white criminals who flashed across the news headlines? If she was repeatedly asked “what is the white community going to do about these criminals, these thugs?” More specifically, I asked her if she felt any uncomfortable kinship with the affluenza teen who got a slap on the wrist for killing 4 people while driving drunk, or the ivy-league rapist who only got 6 months or the racist murderer who killed the church members in South Carolina. Crystal replied that she did not feel responsible as a result of them sharing the same race as hers, and I think that is the major difference.

It seems as a rule of thumb in the media and in our society, it is so common to include black parents in a sentence as though we are all one parent when discussing any criminally induced or negative public incident. We have heard this when discussing “black on black crime” or the incident when a black youth didn’t give their cell phone up and was yanked out their seat by an overly aggressive police officer, or the one when a young black teen-aged girl mouthed off to another overly aggressive officer at a pool party, and now the one when a black parent took a picture at the zoo and looked down to find that her son, who had been at her side just 10 seconds ago, had wandered over an insufficient barrier – leaving his life in danger.

If I was asked the same questions that I asked Crystal, I would not be able to confidently provide the same answers. Maybe I don’t feel responsible, but many people, including other black people, are quick to judge us all for the actions of a few. I’d be a wealthy woman if I were paid for every time I heard someone say or write “Black people need to raise their kids better.”

As I begin to look back at the comments in each couple’s incident, I realized that the white couple may not have had a petition with 300,000 signatures requesting they be held responsible for their son’s unfortunate encounter, but I did notice that there was a good amount of parent-bashing they received as well.

There was a common suspicion amongst several self-made social media pundits that questioned the parents’ account of the issue that night in Florida. There were implications that something happened to the child before the alligator incident. Squinty-eyed claims of some type of foul play. I realized here that we are all not exempt from stereotypes, racial or not.

We have been exposed to many media-hyped cases of the white woman who cried victim, only to find that she herself had harmed her children (see Susan Smith and Casey Anthony etc.). Seems like the couple in the Orlando incident easily fell under that umbrella. That’s knee-jerk stereotyping and prejudging also.

As I sit writing this, I am literally a few hours past my own parental incident. I was fortunate. I consider myself and my husband to be good parents. After all, I was preparing my children to attend Vacation Bible School. My husband and I work hard to provide for them, we teach them lessons, give them love and discipline, teach them social and spiritual values. Good parent right?

Then what would public opinion say about my turning my back for 10 seconds had I not been so lucky? Would the simple color of my skin make me a bad parent or a parent worthy of sympathy and understanding?

We are all trying to make the best of this life, we need to stop judging each other and create more love. We should extend our hands out to one another instead of shaking the shame finger. There is too much tragedy because we speak against our differences instead of seeing the bond of where we are similar as humans.

My heart and prayers go out to the families of both children. I could not imagine the thought of going through what either of them have, especially losing a child. My heart also goes out to every single person touched by the shooting massacre in the Orlando night club and those who have died simply because of their difference from another.

By the way, we are taking measures to secure that dresser to the wall (please do the same if you haven’t already)! Always Love!

Read Crystal’s blog for this conversation here.

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