Lessons From My Tiny Teacher: I’m Raising A Black Boy in America
One thing most moms can agree on: your little one drives you up a wall! Another absolute we might all acknowledge is these little annoying, imaginative, curious creatures really can teach (or at the very least remind) us of a few fundamental truths. You know, like the familiar, but oft-forgotten “treat others the way you want to be treated” or the foundational “sharing is caring.”
We all have those hilarious, infuriating, enlightening (or all of the above) moments with our kiddos that remind us of these lessons we were taught way back in the stone age when we were little tikes. Here, I share with you teachable moments brought to you by Matthew, my feisty, gutsy, spunky tot who’s taught me a thing or two since he came kicking and screaming into my life! Enjoy, but more importantly, take note.
This week my two year old reminded me that I’m raising a Black boy in America.
Recently our national news has inundated its viewers with images, stories and footage of unrest in Ferguson, Missouri after the shooting death, at the hands of police, of an unarmed Black boy.
And while specific details haven’t emerged about the exact order of events leading up to the young man’s death and witness and police accounts vastly differ, for me, the details of the incident are minutiae. The larger issue, and the one thing that is a definite in this case, is that an unarmed Black boy, heading to college, is dead.
When I was pregnant I couldn’t wait to find out the sex of my baby. I wasn’t one of those of ‘we’ll see once he or she arrives’ type of mommies. I was dying to know—the countdown was real. I wanted a baby girl so bad! I daydreamed of buying her cute little outfits and accessorizing her with cute bows and frilly socks, a far cry from the boring stuff boy clothes are made of. And so on the day of my gender reveal prenatal appointment, I was so excited! I could virtually hear the nurse say, “It’s a girl!” I couldn’t wait!
But instead, as I anxiously laid there with my lovely baby bump, she said, “Alright, you’re having a boy!”
“A what,” I thought. “So you mean I have to play in mud? And buy toy trains, trucks and cars? And rough house? Reallly?”
Honest to God, those were my initial thoughts. But surprisingly, I was still excited! I knew what I was having. And my boy and I were going to have the time of our lives once he finally arrived!
As I went to sleep that evening, knowing I was carrying a baby boy, a reality began to sink in for me: I have the overwhelming responsibility of raising a Black boy in America. I cried. Not for the aforementioned superficial reasons, I was over that much. I cried because I knew that raising a Black boy would be tough. I knew that the moment he peeked his tiny face into the world, he would be labeled. He would be a statistic. He would be a target. And it was my job to make sure that I instilled principles, morals and values into him that would help him to overcome all of the above. And I knew that that job would be a tough one. But even still, I wouldn’t be able to chaperone him his entire life. I wouldn’t be there when he’s walking down the street with friends, or when he’s leaving a high school dance, or walking through a department store.
So as I watched news reports and saw Mike Brown’s mother distraught over the loss of her unarmed baby, and I looked at my son, knowing that he would grow up and face the same challenges as Mike, I was reminded that I’m raising a Black boy in America. And that I’ve been tasked with a responsibility to teach and protect him, and pray that the day will never come that I will be like Mike’s mother, fighting for answers and justice over the loss of my unarmed Black son. Historically speaking Black men have been (literally) fighting this country for equality and respect for decades. We’ve read the brutal accounts of slave times, lived through or heard the stories of the civil rights movement, and now, must face the reality that we’re currently living in a time that mirrors the same injustices, violence and unrest as those eras.
That night, as I cried, I promised myself that my village and I would do our best to prepare my son for his life as a Black boy in America.
And today, I’m reaffirming that promise.