How to Raise Your Little Boy Into A Grown Black Man
These days, I can be in the store shopping with my sons, A’veri (8) and Dash (3), laughing and having a great time. People always stop and speak to my kids, sometimes without even acknowledging me first. They say how cute they are and how adorable and well-behaved they are being, and in the politest way possible, I get the boys to say thank you as we keep going through the store. However, it won’t be long until these boys, both of whom were born to black parents, will soon become black men. I don’t know all the answers on How to Raise Your Little Boy into A Grown Black Man, as I’m still in the process myself. Nevertheless, it dawned on me that I shouldn’t be afraid to ask the questions that are apparently on so many others mother’s mind, burning through their brains, as our culture watches our youth, also black and living in urban areas, be shot down by cops and others in the name of self-preservation.
The father of both of my sons, a black man, stands 340lbs and 6ft 4 inches. He’s a dark skin, heavy and large stature man. His smile is warm and his heart is open. I call him my bear, because he may look grizzly at times, but deep down he’s a lovable kind of guy… just like a teddy bear. Although, I know what kind of person he is, so many people don’t even consider that as an option when first laying their eyes on him.
My sons’ father looks like a big scary black man, a description I’ve heard more than one white person utter when out in local areas of our city that many African-Americans don’t frequent. My husband knows this, and understands that there are certain basic things he can’t do when out in public. All our lives, my husband feared raising his voice in public areas that were predominantly white, he feared laughing too loud or getting into a debate with someone outside of his race. Often times, he was asked for identification or his personal information just for standing by his car or walking in the parking lot, because unbeknownst to him, someone called the authorities for fear that he was a threat. He’s been cut off on the street, parking space stolen, people have even bumped him intentionally in line, and he regrettably ignores it all because he believes that when it comes down to him or the perpetrator, the police will not hesitate to take his big black behind down.
Below is a snippet from a recent episode of BET’s Being Mary Jane Season 3, Episode 8, where this woman hit the nail on the head by asking this very question. I literally cried, because this is exactly how I felt…
I do not own this material, this is the copyrighted property of BET Networks
It is because of this, I also have my own set of fears. I don’t let me sons play outside too often, because I’m afraid that someone will bring them harm. I fear letting them wear their hoodies in neighborhood where melanin isn’t as prevalent, because I don’t want them to be labeled as criminals or suspects. I warn my kids about acting wild, crazy… like kids generally act when excited in certain shopping areas or neighborhoods, because I don’t want to be judged as hood or ghetto. This is illegitimate fears and concerns, pushed upon me because we are a black family. I shouldn’t have to limit my sons and their childhood, but the truth is, I’m scared. I don’t want to lose them to the streets, where you have to be tough to survive, where the kind-hearted cute little boys get jumped and beat up. I don’t want to lose them to some white person who thought they might have been trying to steal something, so for the sake of his safety and no one else’s, he shot them down in cold blood. I don’t want to lose them to drugs and alcohol, because things can be so messed up to even think about, that it’s easier to get high and forget it all than to face the challenge of being a black man every day. I don’t want to lose my sons.
In a conversation a few weeks ago, going over my oldest son’s honor roll report card, I explained to him my fears. I said, “You have to be 10 times smarter, faster, and fearless than the rest of them, just to get half of what they were born to inherit.” He immediately understood. His father and I explained that he was already born with so many things counting against him, two of which was that he was black and a man. I wanted A’veri to understand that nothing will be given to him, just because he had both a mother and father at home, or that he was cute, or he was kind and polite. I explained that eventually that cute face will be covered in facial hair, that adorable voice will move and make way with a sound that possessed more bass and masculinity, and his height and body shape will be more profound.
It will be during that time, that those nice white people who smiled at you and said “you are so cute!” will eventually start clutching their purses and pulling at the arms of their white men for protection just because the non-threatening adorable black boy transformed into a large black man like his father. At that time, you can’t falter and fail. It is that time, we can’t give them not one reason to believe that you are a weak link, a problem, a suspect of any kind. A’veri looked at me with big eyes, almost tearing up from the realization, and asked his father “Why does it have to be so hard… to be a black man?” His father shrugged his shoulders and said, “That’s just how it is.” So A’veri quizzed us further, “Why do I have to be a black man?” I looked him dead into his eyes and immediately answered “Because God knew that you, more than many of them, could handle it!”
I don’t care what anyone says, it’s not easy being a mother to two boys, let alone two black boys. When I watch the news, another mother is losing her son over some senseless situations that didn’t have to escalate so far. I can’t watch them every minute of the day and still live my life. Quite frankly, I strongly believe I shouldn’t have to. I know that we are good people, who are raising our sons to be good people as well, but it’s what society wants to label our children that I will never have control over. Who’s to say that someone doesn’t put my sons in a position to fight for their lives with the intention that they will fail just because of the color of their skin. Who’s to say that I will not wake up to find that my sons gave up and gave in, because the struggles they face, one of which I will never fully comprehend, was just too much for them to handle. I watched my brother-in-law go to jail, I see cousins and a sister strung out on drugs, uncles who are damn near homeless, and a parent who is just now stepping away from a bottle because it gets to be that damn hard. I swear I don’t want to lose my sons!
So what is the answers to how to raise your little boy into a grown black man? As a mother, you will learn as you go. You instill into your son the qualities that you know a good black man should possess: respect for women, integrity, honor, loyalty, strength, perseverance, ambition, honesty, love for himself and his people, and a need to succeed to his fullest potential. Everything things else will be trial and error, everything else will come as you go, but living in fear cannot and will not be the option. Our boys must live, must learn, and must thrive. Our boys must experience life and see for themselves the good, the bad, and the ugly. As much as I can be afraid for them, I refuse to back down in fear, because of someone else’s ignorance and hate. It’s not fair to my sons and their future. Being black isn’t something they should apologize for or be weary of, it is an honor. I tell them, you were strong enough to handle what comes with this skin, you were chosen.
So now when they ask me can they play outside, I’ll let them go. I’ll still have a small amount of worry for them inside, I won’t lie. Nevertheless, I will be there waiting for them to hug me when they come home, safely and unharmed. I won’t lose my sons.
Do you have any tips or advice on How to Raise Your Little Boy Into A Grown Black Man? Please leave a comment below…