Ferguson is the latest reminder why I’m scared for my boys

Mara Williams with Jordan and Trey
Mara Williams with Jordan and Trey The Kansas City Star

Regular readers know that for the last four years I’ve been counted in the single-mother category.

Tough job.

And you also know, because pictures don’t lie, that I’m an African-American mother of two sons, one in his late teens, the other a young adult.

So it probably wouldn’t surprise you to know that I’ve been devouring everything I can get my hands on about the raging national dialogue on police/community and race relations after last month’s shooting death of an African-American 18-year-old by a Ferguson, Mo., police officer.

This isn’t meant to be a political or moral commentary of right and wrong but rather a parental spout on how much I worry about my boys in a world where they may not always be judged by the content of their character.

To my Trey and Jordan, I apologize. Sons, I’m sorry my generation hasn’t left you a better world.

Every time I hear one of these woeful tales I’m overcome by a familiar sick feeling in my stomach.

And I begin feverishly reading every account on the incident, looking to see what the young man was up to when he was shot. I’m searching for something, anything that separates this dead young man from my boys. I want to be able to tell myself that this young man was up to no good and that’s why this happened. My boys would never do that; they are safe.

But the truth is, sometimes what they were doing doesn’t matter. It could happen anywhere, in my backyard or yours, and it’s scary.

As if it’s not enough to worry about all the universal trouble-with-teens things we moms (and dads) pray about at night, some of us also are haunted by this:

That a disproportionate number of black males end up dead from cops’ bullets. That some police do profile young black males, stop them for no reason and might shoot them for the same reason. That there are police officers from New York to Los Angeles who assume that all young black men are criminals.

Not all police, mind you. Both my boys have been stopped in their vehicles — a taillight out, driving too fast. One got a ticket (he paid it), the other a warning. But the bad guys don’t wear signs.

So as much as I hate that I’ve had to, I’ve been telling my boys for years that they could be targets and that their lives — and my sanity — could depend on them understanding that and acting accordingly. When you are stopped by police:

▪ Put your hands on your steering wheel where they can see them.

▪ Be ultra-polite and respectful.

▪ Do as they say. If you are asked for identification, produce it. If you are asked to stand outside the car, do that. If you are handcuffed, comply. If your civil rights are violated, we will deal with that later. The most important thing to me is that there be a later.

And like any mother would, I hope what they hear me saying is: I love you so much. I want you to have the future you deserve.

To reach Mará Rose Williams, call 816-234-4419 or send email to