At what age did/will you sit your son down and give him the “talk”? I’m not talking about the “birds and the bees” talk but the “Being a black man in America” talk. I am a mother of three handsome African Americans boys and I know that one day the time is going to come where I am going to have to sit them down and have this talk with them. The sad thing is they won’t understand why we have to have this conversation until they get older and experience it on their own.
My oldest son will be turning 8 years old come October and it wasn’t until my mother reminded me that the time is coming to sit him down and have the “talk” with him. On how Philando Castile was shot and killed while his girlfriend and daughter were in the car, how Alton Sterling was killed in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and the police who shot him were never held accountable for his murder, or Eric Garner who was choked to death while saying “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe.” I will have to teach him that everything is not equal. He doesn’t get to go out and act a fool. He can’t do the same things as some of his white buddies because the risks are too high for him to be killed. He’ll have to understand that he was born a target, this is not something that happened over night. He comes from a long list of black brothers who’ve had to experience the same fears. When the police pulls him over he can’t talk to them any way he wants. To protect his life he will have to keep your hands above his head or on the stirring wheel. He will have to ask before he grabs his licenses and registration because the color of his skin is portrayed as violent.
The subject is touchy, uncomfortable, and heartbreaking. It’s the raw truth us as black parents have to face. No parent should have to fear for the safety of their children all because of the color of their skin. l know it may not be fair, but I would rather have my sons humbled than harmed.
I grew up in a predominantly white neighborhood and I seen how hard it was for my only brother to realize that it wasn’t because of who he was that he wasn’t able to do the same things as his white friends but because of the skin color he was born with. My sons will know that when I call their phones they HAVE to pick up because I worry about them not making it back home. They will always have to work twice as hard to be treated half as equal. Statistics show that the older they get the more likely it is they will become victims of violence. They will also be seen as a suspect, but for no other reason than being a black male. That hanging out with one or more of their black friends outside will be seen as “a gang" rather than friends hanging out. It will depend on who's watching them, if they will be considered "a threat" or not.
It frustrating as a black woman because I often feel I don't have the right to display my outrage at the wrongdoers. If I yell at them to protect my sons it will be portrayed as the angry black woman not as the mother who is fighting for equal rights for her children. Being a mother of three black boys, I have to be extra in making sure they understand how their presence can make others feel threatened, while at the same time help them understand they have value and a purpose. I have to have a conversation with them about how they will be considered as "fit the description”. Sometimes the reason for being pulled over is because you're just driving while being black. As parents our goal should be raising a boy in America, not raising a black boy in America. We live in a world where our sons will be presumed guilty the moment he is born.
I realized that it’s a harsh reality and something black parents have to face every single day. It will be uncomfortable to talk about but the only way we can grow is to be uncomfortable. Yes, it’s heartbreaking that the “talk” has to even happen but it's the world that we live in. We have to protect our sons and protecting them means having these hard conversations with them. Our sons and daughters are the future, we need them, we love them, we know them.