Question: How do you prepare your black son for America?
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Shortly after the Travon Martin tragedy I wrote an open letter to all of our sons (I have two) that I'd like to share with you. At the time I was exasperated, angry and hurt. The psychological burden that comes with being a black mother of sons is exhausting; every time I hear of another young black male being gunned down by a policeman in America, it feels like an old seeping wound that never heals because the scab keeps getting ripped off. Now it's Michael Brown - my heart goes out to his family, friends and surrounding community.

Dear Sons:

Please be thoughtful in all your endeavors, our collective hearts bleed whenever you are in pain. Your lives are most precious to black mothers all over the world. We breathe to love and protect you from a society that devalues your heritage; rich bloodlines from the magnificent continent of Africa to the violent shores of the United States of America that erupted into an enormous superpower by riding the backs of your forefathers.

The prolific seedlings of hate laced with vile nutrients of greed and planted in the fertile minds of this nation’s early imperialistic leaders, fed generations with your ancestor’s blood, sweat and tears. Over four centuries, the gnarled roots spread rampantly while strangling your livelihood through institutionalized lawlessness. Realize that your strength, unique talents and extraordinary beauty will always be a threat to a global consciousness of ignorance that denounces your humanity while ignoring Mother Africa as the original womb of which the human race was born.

During the course of your lifetime, you will encounter the wretched faces of racism, classicism, and entitlement. Prepare yourself for battle through education. Know God and thyself first. Cultivate a life with your passion and god-given gifts. Shun the beast when he tests your will and make no mistake - you will be tested. Promote healing by elevating other’s perception of who you are with dignity. Call forth your innate goodness and intellect to shine through degradation. Immerse yourselves in the study of the written word as to articulate your undeniable truths through words chosen wisely.

Always agree to disagree as gentlemen and for the sake of all mankind-know your rights as citizens of this country as this is the highest honor you can bestow upon your ancestors who died for your freedom. Lastly, since it is impossible for you to transform your identity as Black men, stand tall and proud because you are loved.

Love always and Always with love,
Black Mothers

Thankfully, my sons are grown. The youngest is in his early twenties, works and is still at home.  Last Friday night he attended a rap concert that ended at 10:00pm. Although I do not reside within a typical urban setting, I still have the same worries and empathize with the plight of those mothers who live in inner cities and small racist towns across the country.  At 11:30pm I sent my son a text as I needed to know he was safe.  He didn't answer.  I sent him another text at midnight; still no answer.  I called my oldest son and asked him had he heard from his younger brother - he said no but I sensed my tone  prompted him to say he would try to get in touch with him.  Finally at 1:30am - I heard from my baby.  He and his friends had stopped to get a bite to eat - he was on his way home.  I didn't stop worrying until he walked through the door. When he asked why I was so worried - my answer was simple; Because you're a black man in America.

  • Sara, your sentiments are appreciated.  It's good to hear you were fortunate enough to experience the "greatness" of our culture and people;it's apparent that you were enriched and broadened by the education.  Indeed, Financial War pretty much sums it up.  Poverty and the mass introduction of lethal street drugs created the perfect dynamic to keep many communities of color on the bottom rung of society. Institutionalized racism is difficult to dismantle. So much work to do!  Sorry to hear about your foot, we need you and other like-minded people as foot soldiers stomping out inequality wherever it exists.

  • I can't imagine that additional layer of fear, though I know my husband's father knew it personally. I would do anything to change that, for Adam, and your sons and all of our children and young men. Where we lived was in many ways the best neighborhood I have ever lived in, warm and welcoming. I used to think that if white people would just move into the 'hood, we'd have no race problem, because our neighbors were so often wise and kind and made us feel so loved and valued. I now understand that our neighborhood had deep roots, lots of education, was exceptionally politically active and neighborhood connected. Despite the Financial War waged there, (let's take away jobs, decent schools, banks, grocery stores, coffee shops, libraries, and expect any community to flourish) our neighbors for decades had kept busy with block clubs and overarching neighborhood groups, supporting and making our candidates work hard. I miss our old neighborhood. If only it weren't in Los angeles! It used to take an hour to walk the dogs eight blocks-too many people to stop and talk to. In the Midwestern city where I live now, we have learned that the school district is refusing parents services to kids in order to lower their special Ed I.d. Rate for children of color. That's right, turn away desperate parents, serve the white kids, not the black,in the name of paper equity. I'm recovering from foot surgery this year, then it's back to the halls of our school board and our schools to fight for our kids. Sara
  • Sara, what a sad story for anyone to have witnessed! It’s a travesty that these types of incidents are common threads weaved into most communities of color.  Interestingly enough, police do not discern or make a distinction between black males.  In their eyes, ALL black men are a threat to be reckoned with regardless of circumstance.  While I have been married for almost 30 years to a wonderful man who has been an incredible role model for our sons, I still have to worry that either of them could be a victim of mistaken identity and dealt with as such if by some misfortune they are in the wrong place at the wrong time (like a rap concert) mixed with an element outside of their normal environment.  As mentioned, I do not live in an inner city now but I was born and reared in Los Angeles and know all too well the element of which I speak.  Thank you for telling and retelling your story – perhaps someday the penny will drop but don’t hold your breath!  ;-)

  • Dear Toya. Thank you for this. My adopted nephew was badly damaged around by police harassment. Someone kept calling, from a cell-phpne, and claiming a man was holding a woman hostage at gun point inside his house. The first time, the LAPD hauled him outside his front door and beat him up on his front yard, (violation of the Christopher Commission) before his mom and six-year-old niece and neighborhood witnesses, then arrested him on claims he had resisted arrest. We lived two doors down. After that, at all hours of the day and night, the air above us was repeatedly chopped in pieces by helicopters, our way blocked by as many as seventeen squad cars, officers lining our little streets, assault rifles drawn and pointed toward our second family. We repeatedly questioned their presence and were told time and again it was,again, an anonymous phone claiming a male holding a woman hostage. After awhile we would simply kneel, holding the baby, sobbing, praying, though once, my husband (white guy in a bathrobe) came out and yelled at the officers to go home, how terribly wrong this was, putting himself intentionally between rifles and Adam. Adam was college-bound, funny, articulate, interesting, kind. No criminal record. He learned to respond at the door calmly, while we prayed they would not shoot him. He would tell the armed officer that He was calling his civil rights attorney and the police would have to wait the attorney's arrival. He was seventeen and then eighteen. His front door was broken down, in the middle of the night, terrifying his family, including his father who had Parkinson's and diabetes. The splintered 42 inch front door was hard to replace. His family, including us, and our neighbors, all learned that the LAPD was a fiefdom and there was no justice in Los Angeles if you were a young man of color. Yes, he won a sizable judgement against the LAPD. He could have used that to pay for college, if he hadn't already been coping with PTSD from the harassment. Near as we can make out, it all came down to his dating the teenaged daughter of the Senior Lead Officer's new girlfriend. Now, Adam is bounty hunter. It makes me sick in my heart what was done to him. The repeated SWAT team responses to an anonymous threat that never proved out--this would never happen to a white kid in suburbia. We are Jews, my husband, the child of Holocaust survivors. We grew up on stories of the Cossacks murdering maiden aunts, of the seven children of my husband's family were mixed out by either Hitler or Stalin. We will never know what happened to three of them. There are photos on our wall of family who did not survive, and they wear my children's eyes. We relate, on a gut level, to the determined efforts to dehumanize, and the constant physical threats, justified in our public discourse, and written into "stand your ground" I tell this story constantly now, using my Scandinacian-looking face to try to translate to a White America that has no unpleasant experiences with police, no friends of color, and no clue. I hope that I have not been disrespectful in sharing it here, with you who know better than I will ever know. Sara
  • Zetta, I too, still have the audacity to hope and wish your nephews all the best on their journey! Thanks for checking in.

  • I don't have children, but I do have nephews and consider them my babies as much as my sister does. Like you, every time something like this happens I wonder when it will happen to them. Not "if" but "when", because in this post-Civil Rights era, things can still be far from civil. The eldest will be going to college in a few years and I can only hope that things will be better.

  • This is beautifully written, Toya. I applaud you for speaking out on a sensitive subject in our community.

    Kindest regards,