Stepson gets great grades.
The other day his math skills officially surpassed mine. He came to me with a worksheet full of fractions that he was adding together. I sent him to his mother.
When Uma cries, he falls down like Chevy Chase, but without the pain killers. Like, “doo de doo de doo…whoooooaaah?!!!” Boom. He’s on the living room floor. All of the art on our walls, shake. Water glasses inch closer to the edges of the table. Then he stands up and says, “Look Uma!” And does it again.
And it is every bit as annoying as it sounds, but it works. For my three year old, this stuff is funnier and more sophisticated than a paint can full of Kevin Harts. She stops crying and her face crinkles and she begins laughing out loud.
What I’m saying is, despite his questionable taste in snacks and a hearing condition that causes him to never hear what you say the first time you say it… ever… stepson is a great kid.
So, a few weeks ago my father-inlaw visited. And he asked stepson what he wanted in exchange for being such a good kid. And stepson wanted a nerf gun.
This nerf gun… And 75 rounds of styrophome ammo.
Before he went on Amazon and made it happen, James pulled me aside to give me a heads up. He asked, “is this okay with you?” And I said, “If that’s what he wants…” I mean, what’s the worst that could happen?
Okay, well there’s this. A woman called the police on this child because he was using an airsoft gun on his own front lawn before school. She knew the gun was fake, but nonetheless felt uneasy, as a mother, seeing the child shooting plastic balls at a picture of a zombie. By the way, her own son was out there with him. She didn’t know that, though. The kid was suspended. He may be expelled. That’s pretty bad.
But was it the gun, or the horrible neighbor?
I don’t think that kids who play with guns always grow up to become adults who shoot people. If that were the case, then I would take away all of his matchbox cars, because he is obviously going to be a menace on the highway, given how he likes to jump them from his dresser to the floor. For that matter, I need to confiscate his action figures. One of them has no head, but he plays with it anyway. Others are missing arms and legs. This child may to grow up to be a necrophiliac serial killer… but he probably won’t.
Following that line of reasoning, I need to get everything in his room, put it in a box, take it outside and then burn it. He can play with sponges and pieces of burlap and linen. That way he’ll grow up to be a safe, law abiding citizen.
Or, I can go through his room and find all of the toys that might one day give him the idea that a child playing in his own yard is his business. And those other toys that send the message that rather than talking to your neighbor about things that concern you, you should go straight to the police department, multiple times. Maybe there is a “Molly In Yo Bidness Doll” somewhere under his bed.
If there is any relationship between kids who play with guns and adults who kill with guns, please send those studies to me. On there other hand, there has lately been a very strong correlation between folk who see something that they believe is suspicious, and people of color who end up dead because of it. Remember Trayvon Martin?
How about Jendei Cherry. He worked the late shift, got drunk, went swimming and had his clothes stolen. This should have been one of those stories that he tells people for the rest of his life. I mean, it had all of the makings of good comedy, until a guy confronted him as he ran home naked (clothes stolen, remember?), and shot him in the stomach with a .22 pistol.
Jonathan Ferrell crashed his car in North Carolina. Then he did what rational people do when they need help. He went to the first house that he saw and he knocked on the door. The homeowner didn’t go outside, or open the door. Which is a very rational response to a stranger knocking on your door late at night. Instead she called the police and told them that she was being burglarized. This is where things start to go bad. By the end of the night, Ferrell had been shot to death by police responding to the burglary that never took place.
And today, this came up in my morning reading. Yesterday, Sonoma County Sheriff Deputies killed 13 year old Andy Lopez in Santa Rosa California. He was walking home from school, carrying a toy gun. The Sheriffs showed up, and then they called for backup… Then they ordered him to turn around, and shot him dead because they thought he was taking aim. Then they handcuffed him… you know, just in case.
Toy guns don’t kill people. Neither do people knocking on your door… and people running down the street naked tend not to kill people either; particularly not people who are driving by, minding their own business. But snap judgements have been ruining a lot of lives lately.
Is it racism? I don’t know. But around the same time that child was suspended for shooting an airsoft gun in his own yard, a crowd of largely white gun owners was invading Starbucks coffees and showing off how cool it is to be caffeinated, white and heavily armed. Nobody was killed. In fact, while people saw it as obnoxious, nobody really suggested that they felt threatened. Then there was the guy in Oregon who liked to walk around schools carrying a rifle; you know, to prove a point. He’s done it a few times, as is his legal right. Those schools went into lockdown. The students and teachers were terrified, and he feels kind of bad about it. But he’s still alive.
This is not a comprehensive survey of 911 calls and police responses. White people get killed by the police too. And, there are a whole lot of Black and Latino people who survived their interactions with the police unscathed. But it seems to me that if you are a person of color in this country, nerf guns are the last things you should be worried about. The truth is, once Sol reaches adulthood, if things are the way they are now, the most dangerous thing that he can do is be perceived as a threat by the wrong people. Guns do kill people. But so do snap judgements.