In a second instance, I had taken a neighbor’s daughter to the park. She is the same color as I am. While we were there, she was playing with a little white girl who offered the information that she was four years old. I could not see any parent or caretaker with her. We were there for about an hour and a half. Nobody was watching the little girl. And I knew what I should have done–I should have taken her to the authorities and reported that she had been left alone in a public park for an extended period of time.
But I didn’t.
When we left, the little girl began to follow. And then I became really distraught. I didn’t want to leave her alone, but I couldn’t stay. I knew what I should do. But once again I felt an extreme awareness of being a person of color with a white child. I told the little girl she should stay in the park. She continued to tag along. And then a white woman approached from the opposite direction.
When she saw us, she became furious. “GET AWAY FROM THOSE PEOPLE!” she screamed at the little girl.
So it was okay to leave a small child unattended in a public park as long as “those people” were not around. (...)
I realized that in both situations, I was afraid of doing the right thing because I was afraid my actions would be misinterpreted. I should note that they have been misinterpreted in the past, and it is this history that affects my actions today. Was it reasonable to be afraid of my neighbor? Was it reasonable to be so tentative with his children? And what about the little girl in the park?