Why? This is the question I am left asking myself every single day. Why does racism still exist? Why can't we all work together to eradicate racial profiling? Why do I have to explain "being black" to my children? Why can't things just be different? Our television and media outlets are flooded with stories and images of black boys who were unjustifiably shot dead in a country we claim to be the "land of dreams" and a "place of opportunity" for all people. But what truly keeps me awake at night is the fact that I am the mother of two black boys in America who could potentially fall victim to this unnecessary violence and brutality one day. No, this is not an April fool's joke. I am making a vow to do everything in my power to prevent this from happening, and I am going to tell you how.
It all began late one afternoon when I neglected to turn CNN off of the television. Mr. President #1 was watching one of his recorded children's shows before dinner, and when it ended, he could hear live television playing on in the background: the voice of the narrator of a documentary airing on CNN about an investigation into the killing of Freddie Gray suddenly filled the room. I immediately turned off the television, but that didn't stop Mr. President #1 from asking me the question I had been dreading, "Mommy, why did they kill that boy? Because he's black?" I was infuriated to hear those words coming from the mouth of my five-year-old son, but at that very moment, a revelation suddenly came upon me: I finally realized that racism, brutality, and violence were the issues our society had succumbed to decades after segregation and racial oppression had ended in America. We are facing the same issues our ancestors fought for so many years ago right now.
Now let me be clear about one thing. I am not anti-police. What I AM is anti-racism, anti-violence, anti-oppression, and anti-brutality. Racism is deeply rooted in our society whether we want to admit it or not. I too have been a victim of racism and racial profiling, and because I do believe this is something my sons will disappointingly have to face one day, it is the responsibility of myself and my husband to prepare and equip them for the future.
Many of my mommy and daddy friends are teaching their children to be kind to others, say please and thank you, eat their vegetables, and be respectful, but I am not only teaching my children these necessary principles, I am literally teaching them how to stay alive.
Unfortunately, at this point, there is only so much I can do about the overbearing violence and racism happening in our society today. I am only one voice, but we need many voices; the voices of those from all races and all walks of life to come together to make a difference. People are killing one another like they have absolutely no regard for human life. I cannot control the type of news being aired on television or being published in our newspapers and magazines, but what I can control is how my children perceive what is happening today and how they lean to love and appreciate who they are in spite of it all. I have to teach my children to live their lives a little differently and more cautiously than some of their friends, but more importantly, I must teach them to always be unapologetically black and be proud of who they are.
How does my parenting differ from the norm?
Many of my mommy and daddy friends are teaching their children to be kind to others, say please and thank you, eat their vegetables, and be respectful, but I am not only teaching my children these necessary principles, I am literally teaching them how to stay alive. I am teaching my sons to be extremely careful of what they say; to be extremely cautious of the words that come out of their mouths, especially with the authority. I am teaching Mr. President #1 to be cognizant of the clothes he wears so he will not be perceived as a criminal when he's simply walking down the street or walking home from school. I am teaching my sons to be more tolerant than their peers, and to be aware of their surroundings at all times. When I send Mr. President #1 off to school, I remind him of these things, and to be aware of every move he makes. Can you imagine how tiresome this must be for such a small child? Kindergarten is enough to worry about, but for Mr. President #1, it doesn't end there, and I am sharing this because it just is not fair. For Mr. President #1 and I, I imagine our morning conversations will go a little something like this in the near future:
Me: Have a great day son.
Mr. President #1: Ok mommy. I love you.
Me: Remember to watch what you say. Be respectful, keep your hands to yourself, do nothing but smile at the police, and do not put your hood on unless it is raining. I love you too.
Mr. President #1: Ok mommy. Bye!
Me: What did I tell you son?
Mr. President #1: No touching, listen up, no hood, follow the rules! I got it mom! (And he runs off to school...)
How will I teach my sons to be unapologetically black?
I have quite the task cut out for me when it comes to my two, little black boys. Teaching them to be unapologetically black in today's society is no easy feat, but I am grateful to have been given such an important responsibility. Mr. President #2 is still a little too young to take it all in, but I remind Mr. President #1 on a daily basis to be proud of who he is. I constantly tell him that the way he is, is not his fault. I tell him that the color of his skin, the shape of his face, his height, his shoe size, things he is great at, and things he has trouble learning are all because God made him that way. Yes I want my children to assume responsibility for the things they've done right and the things they've done wrong, but I want them to know that there is absolutely no mistake about the way God made them. I want them to know and understand that they are the way they are because God chose for them to be that way for a reason.
What do I expect my children to do with these life lessons?
As Mr. President #1 and Mr. President #2 grow older and gain a more clear understanding of it all, I expect them to not only understand that they are black and they are incredible, but for that reason, I expect them to treat others with nothing but love and respect. I expect my sons to realize that racism is real, whether they can see it or not, and to teach other people and little black boys who come after them that they all deserve to live and that they all have a place in our society. I am afraid that when the time comes, my sons will not know how to respond when they have to face racism, so I want to take time to prepare them now. I also want to build them up by letting them know how beautiful and wonderful they are and will always be, even when society will try to tear them down.
I also expect for some of my friends and acquaintances to criticize me for sharing this; to look down on me for pointing out an underlying issue that many people don't want to address, but I am willing to take that risk. I am convinced that some of you who will ridicule me for this do not know what it is like to be discriminated against simply because of the color of your skin. As the mother of two little black boys in America, I refuse to let hem be hurt by the negative words someone might speak to them, or be scarred by the violence they may have to face one day. Don't be mad at me; put yourselves in my shoes and just know that I do love you, but the focus is on someone else for right now. We are strong, we are unapologetically black, and we want to bring this country to a better place and we need your help. Let's do this thing together.