Raising A Young Black Man in America

I am sure that I am not the first and will not be the last to talk about or touch on this subject.  In fact, there may be many who can write more eloquently quoting figures, facts and stats; but as a mother of three young black men, I am qualified.

All children are born equal or so we say however none will be more questioned, more targeted, more stereotyped than the young black male.  If he grows up speaking correct English, making the grade, dressing modest; society will criticize him.  Instead of respecting him as an individual and giving him credit for accomplishments; the accomplishments will be belittled by titling them to be those only a white young man could achieve and thus labeling him an oreo.  Some of society might be more poised and instead of out and out calling him an oreo they tastefully comment how different he may be from what they clearly view as a mainstream black man, whatever he looks like.  If the young man is modern and loves the latest fashion his sexual identity is questioned, Heaven forbid that he shows interest in the Arts and is in drama club because at that point he is definitely gay or with feminine tendencies.  Well what if he is into music of all types but takes a particular interest to rap, at that point he is now a violent child and a sense of automatic fear is gained from those who simply encounter him.  Maybe he’s the natural one and wears the braids, dred locks or twists; OMG someone get him a food stamp card because he’s not going anywhere.

As a mother of three, each one of my sons has three diverse personalities and over the years, My husband and I have had to teach them, tell them and in some way attempt to explain to them that there isn’t anything wrong with them, their desires or personalities.   My oldest son had just reached the age to vote when he was able to cast his first vote for who has now become the nation’s First African-American President and while he was so proud, the pride quickly faded as he realized that in a very real sense there isn’t anything one can do, any level one can reach to be treated and respected as a Black Man in America.

This entire thought process comes after having a real heart-to-heart with my 8 year old concerning his adventures at daycare camp during the summer.  We put in the work, the discipline to teach our youngest how to handle conflict and most importantly he isn’t the aggressor toward others.  He’s not timid as football handled that and taught him skills, teamwork and other values that participating in team sports provide.  However every young young man will be tried and when he is tried by his peers he must as a young man show who he is, now during the time at the new camp while he was being tried, no one seemed to notice but when my son begin to defend and show that he wasn’t to be mistreated, all of a sudden I was met by the camp counselor for a talk.  As a parent, I am always surveying the room, the group everyday and have noticed a few things and of course I let her know all of them during our conference.  As we left the school it took my husband and I more time at home to help my son put it all in perspective.  Thoughts ranged from him feeling bad and not wanting to be labeled a trouble starter to feeling as it was or is his fault. It took time to sort through his feelings and live him with confidence and assurance, but it was time well spent.  Culturally our children are always being judged to see what is in them as if the Black man is a species different from all others.  It’s crazy even at young ages the expectations of our men are so demanding.  Either they have to be the star of the team, the fighter and/or the trouble maker to fit into stereotypes that obviously other cultures teach their children about them and it would seem that they will spend their life fighting for their place as individuals regardless of their skin.

With the epidemic of bullying growing more and more, in the light of the Trayvon Martin’s story as parents of Black men, we must continue and for some start to ensure that our young men have a full view of who they are!  It requires a balance, teaching them their history: the good, bad and ugly and in the midst of teaching the history inspire them to become the best person they can become.  Teaching them not to answer to the stereotypes from anyone.  Their perception, their problem.  Having the courage to defend themselves and not being victims to aggressive children and yet not becoming the bully.  It’s a day-by-day process of developing their mind, body and soul to grow up in this country we call America.  Above all, we consistently encouraged them to respect yourself first and never answer to disrespect.

Post Obama era, one may have expected that our jobs would have gotten easier but it didn’t.  At first glance, that reality made me mad but a second look lives me happy that the prejudice of some Americans is open so that this generation and the one to come will have a more profound respect for their history.  It’s important they know it wasn’t a thing of the past and that when we push them to be better than average, we aren’t over reacting.  In fact as usual the haters of our President who seek any and every opportunity to disrespect him under the pretense of many reasons expect the main reason, skin color; have done what haters do, pushed and prompted us as a people to remember who we are, where we come from and be encouraged to continue moving knowing that anything we do given the chance, we can do Excellent!

Before this incident, when we would talk about history, my 8-year old would say skin color doesn’t matter.  Now he knows it does but it’s not a problem, it’s a challenge that we have been overcoming for generations.

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