If you’re wondering no I don’t have a son, I don’t have any kids. My hope in writing this letter is that you will either see and understand a reality that is not your own, or if this is your reality I hope your feelings and thoughts would be validated and that you would know you are not alone.
Dear Black Son,
You are not even born yet and I think about you. I think about you for various reasons. I think about the impact you will make in this world, the change maker you will be. I think about whether you will be a creative artist or a freakish athlete. I think about whether you will be a momma’s boy or a daddy’s boy. And sometimes I think about things I never wish I had to.
Sometimes I think about how this world will perceive you. Will you be perceived as what you are, fearfully and wonderfully made, the image of God? Or will you be perceived as bad, unintelligent, trouble, a threat, a thug? Reality is, you are wonderfully and fearfully made in the image of God but sadly a lot of people on this earth won’t see you that way.
A lot of people will see you as a threat because of the color of your skin. Wait, not exactly. As an infant and as a toddler people will fantasize over you. People will admire your beautiful skin complexion. They will admire the texture of your hair. They will admire the way your smile and laugh lights up a room. People will say they want to adopt a black kid like you. Your presence will be sought after as an infant and toddler, because who doesn’t want a cute little black boy of their own?
But then the time will come, the years will pass by and you will mature. The time will come when your adorable baby and toddler features will disappear. People will turn their fantasizing into fear, into hatred, into fake news, into stereotypes, into statistics, into oppression, into systemic racism as you become a young man. You see, people will love you as a young child and even though you will be the same loving, caring, and gentle person when you grow into a young man, the sad thing is you will be looked at completely different.
At a young age, probably around middle school, when you begin to look like a young man, your father and I will have to sit you down to have the talk. No not the sex talk about the birds and bees that every other child should have with their parents. Instead, the talk that no parent should ever have to have with their child. The talk that will make you mature much faster than we would like you to. The talk we will have to have with you so that we make sure you always come back home to us. The talk that can potentially save your life.
The talk is all about teaching you that a lot of people in this world will see you for the color of your skin rather than the person you are and because of that you have to be extra careful. You will be stereotyped because of the color of your skin. You will be racially profiled because of the color of your skin. You will be feared and seen as a threat because of the color of your skin. Without even getting to know you some people will automatically think they know you because of the color of your skin.
So when you get pulled over by the police, yes I said when because the statistics say you will numerous times, be polite, obedient, and cooperative. Don’t speak unless you are spoken to. Answer all questions with yes sir or ma’am and no sir or ma’am. Keep your hands on your steering wheel at all times, don’t reach for anything unless you are told to.
This may sound extreme or seem unnecessary but it’s not. I wish I could laugh and say I was just kidding. But history shows us that it’s not a joke. History shows that many parents never thought their son would be the one to be killed by the police for a “simple traffic stop”. History shows us that in 2018 young black men are sometimes not safe and could potential lose their life when in the presence of the police.
And no son this talk isn’t just for when you get pulled over by the police. It is for when you are sitting in class at school with a teacher that perceives certain things about you. It is for when you are driving alone or with your friends in unfamiliar communities and territories. It is for when you are walking down the street in your own neighborhood in broad daylight. It is for when you are at the park hanging out with your family and/or friends. It is for when you are going about your own business being a law abiding citizen and are just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I promise you this. Your father and I will teach you to love people for who they are not for the color of their skin and we will model this. We will raise you to respect all people, especially authority, wherever you go. Our house will be founded on loving and loving others as ourself. But that won’t always be enough.
In our eyes you will always be our precious baby boy but in the eyes of others you will be what the media portrays, what the stereotypes say, what the statistics have proven. You will be guilty before you are even given a chance to prove your innocence. You will be a threat just because of the color of your skin. You will be never enough in the eyes of some others.
My black son, you are beautiful. You are the image of God. Let me say that again, you are the image of God! God created you the way He did intentionally. Your skin color was not a mistake and neither is it a bad thing, so don’t ever believe that it is either of those because of what someone tells you or thinks about you. You are powerful and you are beautiful because you are the image of God. I hope you can see that because before you are even born I already know that.
The song below is Black Boy by artist Swoope. This song brings up many of the topics and themes that I address in my letter to my one day son(s) and I encourage you to give it 4 minutes and 39 seconds of your time. Swoope’s song Black Boy was probably one of the first things that moved me towards writing this letter.