Look at this photo of my daughter, Maya, almost 10 years old—beautiful, powerful, self-composed and a young master of the model’s walk. Today was the day, the day of her fashion show debut. She had picked out a sparkling outfit that reflected her as much as it did the designer. She was ready, she was excited and she was proud. Black and proud. This is my Maya, my future, our future.
Driving to the fashion show with her in my Mini—good music, open windows, lots of enthusiasm—I was ready to turn south onto the freeway on-ramp. Just as I saw the left-hand turn signal go green and I began to move, an old brown Jeep Cherokee facing north decided to jump the red light and pull a fast U-turn right into my lane of traffic. Startled I honked, and honked twice. At the next light, I saw him through my passenger side as he was stopped waiting to turn right. Still rattled from him turning in front of me, I honked once again. My mistake—I should have let his law-breaking slide.
Then he rolled down his window. Inside was an old white man wearing a navy blue veterans cap. Grizzled and grey he looked at me angrily. Maya, sitting in the passenger seat, glanced between us both. The man turned momentarily back into his car and then looked back at us both. He held up a small black pistol, what looked like a 9 mm berretta. With a vengeful grimace, he reached up, cocked it deliberately, and pointed it directly at us—more likely at my daughter, my beautiful proud black daughter sitting in the passenger seat between us.
My heart raced. My daughter ducked down into the seatwell. He looked at me momentarily, waved the gun ever so slightly, and then peeled off turning right and raced away from us.
What to do? I had no idea. I sat there frozen, only thinking to get his license plate number. As I saw the law enforcement supporter’s gold-star badge on his license plate, I thought how ironic—here is a seemingly proud veteran, contributor to a peace-keeper’s charity, and concealed weapon holder willingly brandishing a gun at my daughter and I!
What to do? I had no idea. Did he pull the gun on us because I honked at him for illegally making a left turn? Did he pull the gun because he thought I was filled with road rage? Did he pull his gun to establish his power over me? Did he pull his gun on us once he saw that my daughter was black?
What to do? I had no answers to any of these questions. Shaken and disturbed, I called 911, told them a gun was just pulled on us, shared what I could see of his license plate, and described his vehicle. All I was left with now was a fully rattled daughter and a thousand worried questions as to why and what had just happened.
What to do? I still don’t exactly know. But this I know for sure: our collective anger is enough. Our guns are enough. Our divisions are enough. There is no innocence—there is no patriotism—when a gun is pulled on a beautiful and proud almost 10 year-old girl on the way to her first fashion show. It is time for change—enough is enough.
Maya is our future. Her generation is our future. Her strength can carry us all forward. After experiencing this, she went and acted like a pro in her first-ever fashion show. She went into a deep scared place before it started, found her strength, radiated her beauty—inner and outer, and walked as though she had walked a runway a thousand times before. Afterwards, she was pensive and pondering, as any young child deserves to be when first faced with a gun. Maya is my hope. And Maya is my future. It is time we make this world work for her, for her generation, for her diverse and loving world. My time is up—the future is her’s.
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