This week, my daughters both brought home envelopes from school containing a single sheet of photo paper. I opened each of them, and my heart skipped a beat each time as I glanced over the paper in my hands.
"Should your child go missing..." it began.
Of course, no parent wants to think about the possibility that their children could wander off or be lured by an abductor. But it happens. And we've talked to our children about strangers, about what to do if someone tries to speak to them or lure them into a car, and we've practiced the appropriate ways to respond.
But seeing the instructions and their smiling faces on a card stamped "GIVE TO POLICE" scares me beyond belief.
I am an overprotective mom. I think part of this is my type A personality paired with the fact that I have three young kids. I can't let all hell break loose. I have to know where my kids are and what they are doing, and I have to keep them fairly contained. If I do not, I could have each of them running in opposite directions.
And there's also the race factor.
My kids are more likely than their white friends to be blamed for things they didn't do, suspected by adults and kids alike upon entering a room, and less likely be receive media attention if they go missing. Thus, the Black and Missing Foundation was created in order to highlight missing black children.
If my one of my children were to go missing, would the police listen to me? Would the media display their photos as quickly, as frequently, as urgently as the photos of missing white children? Would my kid's photos get the same number of shares on social media as the white child's?
Getting the kids' photos and the missing child instructions added "fuel to the fire" of my already heavy heart, anxious mind, and restless soul. The racial climate here in St. Louis has been simply frightening these past few months. I fear for my children, and the many children who look like mine. I feel pending injustices, I listen to unspoken words.
I cut out the kids' photos, as instructed, and slid them into my wallet. And I whispered a prayer for their safety---that I never have to use the cards and that my kids will respond appropriately (and as practiced) if anyone ever approaches them. And I also prayed that as my children get older, and more just-in-case photos arrive year after year, that I don't ever have to use them for another reason: to show I am their real parent or to cry out to the media when one of my baby's is unjustly harmed because he or she is simply Black in America.
God be with our children: clothe them in wisdom, discernment, and divine protection.