I have followed commentary on the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson MO. I watched the video when his mom met Trayvon Martin’s and Sean Bell’s moms and I saw how overwhelmed she was with grief. I saw the photo of the agonized grieving father at his son’s graveside. After viewing the images, listening to commentary and reflecting on what I had seen and heard, I became concerned more than ever about raising my son in this country.
Here are a few things I plan to share with my son (and I’ve already started on some of these items):
1. Regardless of race, people are people. We all bleed red blood (O, AB, A+, A- etc. blood types, you get the idea). There are still characteristics that make us all the same, even if we aren’t raised the same, nor look the same.
2. Be proud of who you are. When my son was 4 he wished he was white. He said whites had more fun, had more money and the list went on and on. I was stunned speechless. As he’s gotten older (he’s a pre-teen who is now taller than me), I’ve spent time letting him know how special he is, and how important he is. I told him I prayed for him to be here (and I really did). I want him to embrace this for himself and not depend on society to define him.
3. Stay close to those who genuinely care about you. This isn’t just family members; I’m including family friends and educators in this list. There are even GOOD law enforcers out there. I pray that he will encounter mainly the good ones as he grows up.
4. Do not go anywhere or hang with anyone that can bring trouble on you. I know some places are fun to be and some people are fun to be with, but some fun places and people can bring issues that cannot be fixed or changed. He is aware of “Say NO to drugs” and we will soon have those talks about partying, drinking, etc. so he will make wise decisions as he gets older.
5. Find a safe place to stay after midnight. My lead pastor says this often to his adult children. I’ve started saying it to my son. I reminded him of his complexion and that a lot of terrible things happen in the dark. If he won’t be home, I will expect him to be accountable and to stay in a safe place until daylight.
I also plan to teach him the basic rules that will keep him alive should he be stopped by law enforcement personnel, such as keep your hands where they can see them, and let them know that you know your rights. (For example, law enforcers legally have no right to search your car without a search warrant.) I also want him to cooperate as much as possible with law enforcement to minimize (or eliminate) the “need” for brutal arrests or the use of deadly force.
These are difficult times, but I believe that if we become educated on ways to protect our African American boys and young men, we can minimize these deadly confrontations between them and law enforcement personnel.
BMWK family, what other tips can you add to this list to prepare our African American boys to live in today’s society?