By Vernon A .Williams
Sadly, this actually happened.
Playing with a three-year-old boy relative over the weekend, I tried to match his indefatigable energy, chasing his assumed Marvel Comics superhero character from room to room. I unwittingly picked up a phone pretending, “It’s the police… they need you to come to the rescue.”
That stopped him in his tracks. The smile gone from his face, he repeated with a sense of dread, “The police?” I detected his sudden apprehensive mood, and he spoke before I could respond. With all joy gone from his voice, he looked up with those beautiful, innocent, brown eyes and pleaded, “Don’t let them shoot me.” Three years old.
It would be easy to dismiss his reaction as an anomaly. You know, like folk who talk about how certain things could never happen in their neighborhood… until it does.
We first don’t want to accept that this nation is in a crisis mode and secondly, face the brutal fact that our children are severely impacted. It’s an uncomfortable truth.
But America has to be careful not to oversimplify. The first thing we tend to do is accuse the environment in which children are being raised. That’s why we are repeatedly shocked when the prom queen, class president, captain of the high school football team, or church choir boy gets into mischief or is troubled.
This particular child is from a loving, young two-parent, middle-class, nurturing family where he is seldom exposed to violence or negative news media. He is exceptionally bright, playful and affectionate.
From the outside looking in, the cause of his trepidations does not fit into any of the convenient boxes created for expediency and our convenience.
The question is, was it even possible over the past few years to escape the cold realities of this society, even with the most meticulous precautions. The answer is an emphatic NO! This problem is pervasive. My young relative was just capable of voicing the fear too many children today harbor.
Remember, this child was born in 2019, when all hell was breaking loose across the U.S. and around the world. By osmosis, during a parent’s quick check for the weather or sports scores, tuning into documentaries or religious broadcasts, messages between segments of cooking channel telecasts or HGTV, even children’s shows and cartoons, children acquire a sense of danger and violence. It is impossible for them to escape all possible exposure to the horrific events of the current day.
Even picking up on conversation between parents or adults on the phone or witnessing the lament of grown folk affected by friends and family struggling through the arduous day to day – or themselves being victimized by some injustice or fearful affliction – can be more easily detected by young minds than we can imagine.
We might as well face it. It’s complicated and it is real. You can run from the reality, but you cannot hide. This test is not as simple as “true or false” – not even “multiple choice.”
This arduous examination requires research and study and higher order thinking for effective analysis, evaluation and delineation of reasonable and effective strategies to address the challenge.
Or we can throw an iPhone or iPad at children while we go on with our lives – leaving them to their own devices to figure it all out. That, of course, is a recipe for disaster.
The first thing we need to look at is how to alleviate realities that threaten the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness in the lives of American citizens.
In other words, we must tackle the disease… not the symptoms.
In the interim, it would behoove us to recognize how widespread and deep are the day and night concerns among our younger population and to lend urgency to the creation of as many avenues as possible to offset the severity of their struggle.
It will take much more than hugs and stuff. It will even take more than prayer and faith. It will take strategies and work and consistency and time.
Even among children, who like this three-year-old boy, constantly exhibit affection, curiosity, humor, positivity, playfulness, self-control and resilience, there are moments of uncertainty; just like we all experience as adults. We owe them the response of love, comfort and understanding – the same elements that help put our minds more at ease.
Making sure children get that and more is our greatest responsibility.
CIRCLE CITY CONNECTION by Vernon A. Williams is a series of essays on myriad topics that include social issues, human interest, entertainment and profiles of difference-makers who are forging change in a constantly evolving society. Williams is a 40-year veteran journalist based in Indianapolis, IN – commonly referred to as The Circle City. Send comments or questions to: [email protected].