Last year, we cared for three siblings who weren’t fond of the police or African Americans and made it known in no uncertain terms and with several unsavory ones. It was an attitude they’d learned from their biological parents, who both had a string of arrests and many prejudices.
We couldn’t change their attitudes, but we could at least enforce no name-calling, read books about MLK and share our own beliefs. So we did.
But the subject got complicated quickly. A police officer in Ferguson, MO, a neighborhood about 45 minutes from us, shot and killed a young black man. Riots and unrest rose, revealing painful and broken race relations throughout St Louis, and the country. Between cops and the African American community. Between white privilege and black oppression.
And then another young black man was shot right outside the kids’ elementary school. Tensions grew even higher. Throughout the city and especially in our little neighborhood.
In the midst a city fighting itself, a lot was asked of these small kids, already struggling with foster care and all of its baggage.
But slowly and surely their attitudes were changing. About cops and about black people. Without knowing the tension that existed between the two.
And then Halloween came. Victor, the eight-year-old, asked to be a cop. A cop in a St Louis city school.
It would have been simpler if he’d asked about the birds and the bees.
On the one hand, we were grateful he had come to respect cops. To even aspire to dress up as one.
But on the other, what message would a little white boy donning a badge and handcuffs send to a hurting community who felt oppressed rather than protected by law enforcement?
We didn’t take the decision lightly. But we also couldn’t fight every battle. And we didn’t want to ask these foster kids to fight more than they already had to.
Like many of our choices on this journey, I don’t know if we made the right one. I only know it was drawn with good intentions and shades of gray.