On Raising a Black Son in Today’s America
A few years ago a black teenager walked through my neighbor’s yard. Dumb? Yes. Disrespectful? Yeah. You don’t walk through people’s yards. It’s just common courtesy. My hackles go up if people walk through my yard, no matter their race, age, or gender. It was in broad daylight when this happened, and my then-5-year-old daughter and I were outside. I heard the woman yell to her adult son to go in the house and get the gun. Not wanting us to be caught in the crossfire, I brought my daughter in the house and called the police. They arrived in record time – apparently the word “gun” is a pretty big deal.
A few hours following that incident, I had a conversation with my neighbors and found out that they are extremely racist. The husband came right out and said “I have no respect for those people.” He started bragging to me that he had been a leader in the racial riots in the 70’s, like it was something to be proud of. His wife shushed him, pointing to my boys, as if THAT’S the reason he should keep his mouth shut, not the fact that he’s an arsehole. Sorry. It gets me worked up. These people live right next door to me. I am 100% white. My husband is biracial, black/white, but he looks white so they probably don’t realize it. My son is black, and my other son is mixed white/Hispanic. My daughters look white, but they have a black grandma, aunt, uncles, and cousins. They know that “Black” is part of their racial identity. And we live right next door to a family who will run for the gun just because a black teenager was stupid enough to cut through their yard. I wonder if a white teenager were to cut through their yard, if the response would have been the same. I have no way of knowing.
The thing that’s been on my mind this past week is my black son who is now only 3 years old, but will one day be a teenager. And shortly after that, he’ll be a black man living in a world where black men are looked on with suspicion only because of the color of their skin.
I want to teach my son to be above reproach. I want to teach him social rules and common courtesy, because I want him to be a respectable person, as I want for all my children. I don’t want him to have to obey all of society’s rules out of fear of being shot and killed. I don’t want him to believe that the punishment for walking through someone’s yard might be death when it should be nothing but a tongue lashing. I don’t want him to put up walls of self-protection based on that kind of fear. I don’t want him to resent the fact that people judge him based on his skin color. Resentment turns into bitterness which can turn into anger and violence. It’s a horrible cycle that I pray finds no place in my son’s life.
We will talk about race in my home. We will talk with pride about each of our individual heritages. We will talk about racial injustice. We will also remember the dream that God gave my daughter when she was 3 years old, in which God told her that the whole world is her family. The whole world IS our family. God is a creative genius, and he made a world full of beautiful colors, including skin, eyes, and hair.
And I will pray for wisdom as I raise my son to navigate this world as a black man, which is something I will never be able to completely fathom. I pray that he will feel completely loved and accepted for who he is by me, by his father, and by his sisters and brother. I pray that he will understand the plight of the American black man, but without resentment. I pray that he will be filled with determination to change the world, based not on fear and anger but on love and acceptance and peace.
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This post was syndicated with permission to BonBon Break Media, LLC.