No matter how many books I have read, or the amount of advice I have received, nothing prepares a mother for the hatred and prejudice her sons will be forced to face as black men in America. As overwhelming and as challenging as it is, avoidance of the subject of race is far more detrimental to their futures than having the uncomfortable conversation despite the fact I did not have the answers to the questions they would ask.
By examining my own background, I do not recall my parents having the racism conversation with me or my siblings. As I reflect, a part of me contributes their response to the fact that we were born and raised on an island in the Bahamas where people of color are the majority. Or maybe they were intentional about our experiences because what mattered more to them the character of a person rather than the color of their skin.
Whatever their reasoning, my approach to racism with my children was far from predictable. In trying to preserve their innocence, my method of teaching was more of being aware of color. It was okay to notice color but not allowing it to be the primary factor when making the decision of whom they invited into their community. But instead, widening their understanding of others by not limiting their interactions with people that may not necessarily look like them. After all, God in his infinite wisdom made color magnificent. If He had not, how could we experience the difference between, the sun, or the moon or the variety of flowers that landscape the earth.
Maybe my tactic was not the norm, and just maybe my Bahamian roots certainly played a vital role in cultivating my perception of racism. However, the more profound question hanging in the balance, is at what age should I have engaged in this conversation with my sons?
I did not anticipate during the infancy stage of their lives, when I was merely grateful that we avoided most common infant injuries, that just maybe I needed to begin the preparation process of creating my discrimination script that would explain the unfair treatment of men that resembled them.
It did not dawn on me as they entered the toddler stage, as I was preoccupied and somewhat optimistic that we survived with minor scratches and no broken bones that the conversation about racism was one that needed to occur sooner rather than later. Did I fall short as a mother because I was so desperately trying to preserve their childhood innocence for just a little while longer.
The possibility of them falling prey to drugs, drinking, sex or prison was on the forefront of my thoughts when those teenage years showed up. Even though I had observed the struggle of an addict. Was an eyewitness to alcoholism and the destruction it leaves behind. I knew firsthand the damage of having sex, when you are not mature enough to handle the responsibilities associated with the decision. I was hopeful, that the probability of my sons falling prey to those things was unlikely. Racism at the time was not a priority. I was focused on them understanding that God created them to be, overcomers, men of faith who could do the impossible. Did I do the right and honorable thing by letting my sons know early in life what their Creator says about them. That they are royalty and men of honor. Or should I have been educating them on the intolerance of others who have no clue of their value?
I did my best to educate them on the uncertainty of engaging in dysfunctional habits. However, what I did neglect to do, was to expose my sons to strong black men who had endured the process of racism and were willing to talk about their unpleasant experiences and how they overcame the obstacles. Men that would offer assistance that could help them navigate through the unfair system they would one day experience. Something, as a black woman/mother I could never do effectively.
I had handicapped myself by creating my own self-contained barriers. I had learned how to compartmentalize my emotions in order to survive the struggle. And as our lives continued to develop, I became more thankful for each of their birthdays we celebrated because with each birthday they moved them out of the age brackets that are most affected, or so I thought. Did I cross every “t” and dot every “I” of course not, but we were beating the odds that were being displayed on every available media platform proclaiming that a bright future was not in the cards for my black sons. I realized that my sons would have to encounter the terror of being a black man in America. They themselves would one day have to answer those questions. They themselves will one day experience the unfair treatment of being clothed in a skin color that is different from others yet considered a gift from God.
How difficult is it to expect a black man to continue to remain silent as his dignity is being threatened? To not show anger when is he considered a threat simply by his presence. How is he expected not to respond when is treated unjustly because of others who consider him invaluable?
As we continue to exist, I am amazed at how well my young adult sons have adjusted especially during this uncertain climate in the world. They continue to rise above the negativity of those who try to divide and destroy humanity. I watch with great anticipation as they maneuver through the intricate processes of life, family, finances, friendships and freedom as strong black men holding tightly to their truth. I am in awe how they refuse to allow the negativity of racially motivated people to prohibit them from pursuing God’s best for their lives.
I have the liberty of observing how they tackle stress and depression and how they constantly find creative ways to combat the dangers associated with their own self-defeating thoughts. They are confident in the words that were spoken over them as young boys that everything is possible with God. They are resilient when they receive a “no” because they accept the plan God has for their lives. They understand that He controls the gateways needed for them to propel into destiny. They are determined, knowing that this life journey they are traveling is so much more than the human eye can see.
As I struggle with the chaos inside my own head, as life attempts to shake the core of my foundation, my value as their mother. In my quest to find something that would prevent me from the temptation to respond in the way they are being attacked, I hear my mother’s voice, “two bad things have never made something right.” Fighting not to project my unchecked anger and dislike that rises when I see the inhumane treatment of men of color, including my sons is quite disturbing. After all, as the scripture says, to whom much is given, much is required.
Thankfully, I am finding refuge and understanding in the One that created us all. God. The One that gives us the authority to choose our life path, that either aligns with darkness or clings to His marvelous light. I discovered in His word, that God shows no partiality. He expects for me to love my enemies and that includes those that unjustly try to oppress me and anyone I love. He desires for me to be kind to everyone, tenderhearted, and forgiving, as God in Christ has forgiven me.
There is no doubt that through the lens of God’s eyes I am failing miserably at times. Because in these moments of truth, no part of me wants to love individuals that abuse the people that I love. No part of me wants to be kind to people that want to persecute those I love, my black sons. Yet, God in His infinite wisdom demands that love be my guide if racial injustice is ever to be resolved. The responsibility of demonstrating authentic love when it is appears too difficult to produce, requires that I never forget the act of Jesus at Calvary. The blood He shed was for all humanity regardless of the huge errors we have all made.
If real change is going to occur, we must execute a plan that not only educates those that lack understanding but create an environment where authentic discussions can take place and action items produced. Our prayer life must intensify, so that the hearts of all involved are softened. We must cleave to our faith, knowing that it only takes faith the size of a mustard seed to move mountains.
I am still unsure as to how, when or where the catalyst that will bridge the gap of this vicious cycle that continues to cripple humanity will occur. However, I do know that if we don’t make a collective effort to replace anger, hatred and persecution with love, we will continue to live in a world that breathes hatred, darkness and confusion for generations yet to come and racial equality will never be generated.
In the difficult times ahead, we cannot be naïve about the need to combat injustice. Reflecting on the condition of humanity, I am pondering on what role I must play. I have also questioned the methods in which I educated my sons concerning the hatred of others towards them simply because they are fearful and uncomfortable of the color of the skin that God himself selected exclusively for them. Should I have spent more time combating and dissecting every negative word, action or gesture of those living in ignorance regarding people of color? It is funny with all the disturbance going around, as a mother, my first impulse is to question my parental skills even though I am not responsible for the unfairness plaguing our Nation.
Instead of placing the blame on the shoulders of those too ill-informed to seek after resolutions for racial disparities. We must steer the ship to move forward ourselves. We must be allowed to acknowledge the pain that has been unleashed upon those of color and present opportunities to process the losses. All walks of life must be present in the resolution process if indeed visible solutions are the goal. With unity, the arrest of the spirit of division and God’s love we can win the battle that has ripped black men apart for decades. I believe the time for change is now. It is time to starve inherited behavior that feeds racism. My sons are worth the effort and the risk, are yours? #LURH