it’s personal

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I have a black son.

I have a black son and I am his white mama.

I have a black son who is too young still to know that society

fears him,

mistrusts him,

doubts him,

considers him a threat.

I have a black son and I am his white mama.

It’s personal.

 

I have a black son.

For now my black son is just adorable, charming, beloved, everyone’s friend.

He trusts because he should,

because he is only three years old.

I have a black son and I look at him and wonder,

When will he change in the eyes of those around him?

When will he begin to look scary, criminal, less capable?

When will his teachers begin to overlook his talents?

When will he be punished for misbehaving, considered deviant, while his white friends are dismissed for “just acting like children sometimes do?”

When will I have to tell him that he shouldn’t wear the hood of his sweatshirt on his head?

When will someone cross the street for the first time for fear of him, their heart racing?

What will that do to my son’s heart?

I have a black son.

It’s personal.

 

I have a black son.

When we filled out the adoption paperwork we were extremely clear that the child who would join our family did not need to be white.

We knew that he probably wouldn’t be.

We imagined a black son.

We knew – abstractly – that we would be taking on a great responsibility as the white parents of a black child.

I’ve been asked by both black and white friends,

“What is your plan for preparing your black son for this world?”

What is my plan?

Nobody asked me what my plan was when my white daughter was born 12 years ago.

I didn’t have to have a plan beyond loving her and giving her the world.

But my black son?

I want nothing more than to love him and give him the world.

And I know how brutally that world can be taken from him – in an instant – because of his gorgeous brown skin.

How do I prepare him for that without taking the world – his promise – from him?

I have a black son.

It’s personal.

 

I have a black son.

His ancestors came to America on slave ships.

The racism that binds him – something he doesn’t yet know – is systemic and has not ceased for two and a half centuries.

I have a black son and I have a responsibility to teach him that.

How do I give him that knowledge, that understanding which is his right, without the promise that things will get better

for his people who are not “my own,” but to whom I am still accountable?

I have a black son.

It’s personal.

 

I have a black son and he is a lover.

When he was three days old I held his tiny body inside my shirt, brown skin to pinkish skin, his head against my heart.

I promised my black son that I would care for him and protect him until my final breath.

I promised him that I would teach him how to be a good man.

How to be a black man.

Can I teach him that as his white mama?

What does it mean to be a black man, now, today?

What will it mean for him when he turns 18?

Will he remain safe – will he remain alive – until then?

Will he get the long, full life that is his right,

His promise?

I have a black son.

It’s personal.

 

I have a black son and he likes to wrestle, to tackle, to do karate chops, to yell, “Hah-YAH!”

How will he be seen for that, how will he be judged, as he grows older and becomes “a threat?”

How will I teach him that, around people in positions of authority, he will need to be submissive, compliant?

And that even then his safety – his life – is still not guaranteed?

Still not protected?

Still considered by some to be less sacred than mine,

or his sister’s,

or his father’s?

Why should I have to teach him that?

I have a black son.

It’s personal.

 

Those men, those boys, those women who have been killed for being black,

Whose names are a list we read and reread and speak and call out

to remember,

Those precious lives that matter,

They could be my son.

They are my son.

My son’s life matters.

 

I have a black son.

It’s personal.

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13 thoughts on “it’s personal

  1. I have a Japanese, Panamanian, Portuguese, Lithuanian son, whom I am raising to be your black son’s friend, his brother, his guardian who will stand up against injustices and intolerance and racism.
    I fear with you
    And I parent with you for the change I want to live in this world
    My heart breaks with your words
    And I so wish we could guarantee our boys a safe future
    Our boys
    And the men and women in this world who grow up with so much fear and lack of connection.
    May we live to see the day
    When the prophets’ words are fulfilled
    And we can love in true peace

  2. Thank you for writing this! I have these same feelings 100%. I’m sad that I need to teach my black son different survival skills than my white children. And that his beautiful skin may cause people to pass judgment on him when he grows into a teen and adult.

  3. I have raised 3 African American sons, plus 3 or 4 others who were left in my career. I consider them my son’s as well. I pray harder and harder everyday for my son’s and the world to understand the harness all this ignorance does to the great USA. I sis is sitting back watching all. If we can come together to combat the racism in USA we can conquer all. We are the greatest nation, but we cannot continue in this manner. God Bless America.

  4. Thank you for a fantastic piece of writing! It just has to get better, doesn’t it? My brown son is a teenager already, I have had the heartbreaking talk with him that he can’t do the stupid things his friends do simply because of the color of his skin and the risk involved for him and not his mostly white friends.

  5. I pray that my 5 year old grandson and your 3 year old son will continue to NEVER see color first and benefit from the love for their fellow man that we teach them! They will, TOGETHER, I pray be part of loving solutions that friendships can achieve!! God bless our future!!

  6. I am a Black female and I am saddened that Black Young Men have to take the same precautions they had to take in the 50’s!!
    I have to choose every day to be a Human Being first. For me that means standing tall, not consenting to being treated as” less than” by keeping silent when I am uncomfortable with a situation …… living in fear of that “angry black woman” label. Yes sometimes I am angry. I am HUMAN…Its my right to express all of my feelings. I don’t put up with bad seating, shoddy service, sub par treatment in business or personal relationships. By doing so…saying nothing and accepting being treated that way, would be me entering an agreement…of being “less than” and not deserving of better.

    I am not talking about”special” treatment. Just treat me like everyone else.

    My Character is far more important than my skin tone. I act as if I live in the world I envisioned as a child…decades ago, I believed back then humans would go forward and get over petty things like racism. I was mistaken about the majority. It wants to go backwards…
    I leave the house with the expectation of being treated like the equal human being I am. I have to believe it. I have to live it because if we don’t quietly or loudly ( when appropriate lol) state that this treatment is not acceptable it will continue to BE acceptable. We as Humans do have a say in how we are treated… personally I am done participating in accepting the idea that I am Less Than any other Human being.
    I think ALL AMERICANS should be OUTRAGED at what’s happening in our nation right now. It will take us ALL to come together and stand up.

    Maybe we can FINALLY make America Great…for ALL AMERICANS!

  7. I am a black man, born and raised in America. I have a black son as well and I am confused by this article and articles like it. You make it sound as if your son is bound to live some hopeless life unless other people change. Blaming others for the problem takes away your power to change the situation. The black community needs to change and wake up as well. Parents of these kids being killed in the streets by other black people is probably the number one problem for the black community. We need to educate ourselves and free ourselves from the space mentality. Start taking back our streets and communities. Build businesses and create a black community that is strong and proud. That community exists, by the way, it’s just not shown on the news. A lot of black people feel like me and it’s time we started talking. In short, I’m going to teach my son to use his brain first. If you know cops aren’t acting right, don’t fight cops! (Not saying all situations are the same,just saying it’s hard to defend a guy wrestling with police, black or white) I know good and well there are a few situations where cops are scared and shoot just because, but do what you can to stay alive and bring the fight to court. If you lose at least you live to fight another day. But the fight goes on in the classroom and in the building of community and economic status, not wondering what to do next and living in fear. I hope you teach your son these types of lessons. One love.

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