So, black teens who aren’t angels deserve whatever they get?

CHARLOTTE — While playing with my 2½ -year-old great-nephew was a joyous distraction from the events of Ferguson, Mo., this past week, it was also a reminder that the shelf life for innocence is short when you are a black male — and there is no room for error.

Everywhere the family went with my adorable toddling guest — touring a transportation museum and riding the train there, playing in the kiddie pool at the Y, taking a walk down the street — we were greeted with smiles. Even when he tried to plunge into the fountain reserved for pennies and wishes, his indiscretion elicited smiles, not stern glances.

I wondered how long he would get the benefit of the doubt and not the side eye. It was a question on my mind when I raised my now-grown son – a good man but no saint. He played by the rules and still had his unwarranted traffic stop that resulted in a ticket he fought because he was just that angry. He thankfully controlled his frustration in his interaction with official authority, a lesson I taught reluctantly, figuring a bit of damage to his spirit was preferable to any other sort.