“They Find New Ways To Kill Us Everyday” Gabrielle Union On The Challenges Of Raising Young, Black Boys
It seems like every other week, I find something new to admire about Gabrielle Union. Whether she’s speaking out about women’s issues, race and racism, or the industry, she always speaks thoughtfully and poignantly. And her thoughts on raising the sons she shares with Dwyane Wade. Naturally, as the children of parents in the industry, they have advantages that she and her husband weren’t accustomed to growing up. And so they both have to make sure that their children still remember the conditions of “the real world.”
Recently Union appeared on the cover of Essence and in a behind-the-scenes video she spoke about the challenges she faces in raising Black boys to take pride in themselves but to present as subservient when confronted with police.
“Our conversations about race and police are constant. Even if society didn’t give us hashtags everyday to prompt us. I was raised talking about it all the time, very aware. Whether that be from Black scholars, and other Black intellectuals, Black artists. My mom was just very diligent about supplementing out “education.” Now I have to use education finger quotes because I didn’t know anything. I got to college and was clueless. I think they teach us what they want to teach us. And it’s up to you to figure out what you don’t know and be clear that you’re ignorant and then you can do something about it. I try to make sure our boys are not as ignorant as I was. We are raising privileged Black boys, which creates an interesting situation. That me and D—we weren’t raised with that kind of privilege. So we’re kind of learning through their eyes. They’re rich kids. The kind of friends they have, talk kind of crazy to adults. ‘Not you guys.’ because A. that’s not the house we have and B. you can’t say crazy, disrespectful things to authority figures and think you’re going to walk away and make it home. That’s not your reality. You’re gonna have Uncle LeBron, Uncle Chris Paul and Uncle Carmelo. Those are your perks.”
Then she spoke specifically about an incident where she and Dwyane feared for their sons’ safety. The boys asked Gabby if they could go to their neighbors’ basketball court and play. She said no because it was after dark.
“I don’t trust our neighbors to not see our teenage boys, our tall teenage boys, as children and not as threats to put down like an animal. D didn’t ask me if the boys had asked me. They pulled the ole okie doke. He doesn’t tell me until 30-40 minutes later when I asked where they were. And he was like, ‘Oh yeah, they walked down…’ I panic and then I get him to panic. We hop in the car and we go track them down. We told them to stop where they were. If they were under a street light, to just stay there. And as we’re in route to them there are cop cars coming from [their direction]. And it wasn’t even the cops that I was necessarily afraid of. Our neighbors have personal security too and in a stand your ground state, an open carry state, they’ll shoot you first and get off later.”
I try to think of every scenario but they find new ways to kill us everyday. We try to make them as aware and as informed as possible without stripping them of their pride. That’s a tough thing. How do you arm our Black boys with all the knowledge and all the pride and all the power that we can but then ask them to be subservient when it comes to illegal search and seizure. I still struggle with it. And it’s hard to tell somebody this is how you have to act. You don’t have to believe that about yourself but this is how you have to act so you can come home.”