Tuesday, November 25, 2014

On Raising a Perfect Black Boy

It's been two years since I wrote this post, and unfortunately it's just as relevant today as it was then. Another unarmed black boy was shot and killed, his shooter walked without consequence (this time without even a trial), and all anyone without skin in the game wants to talk about is the dead black boy's flaws and imperfections. People are desperate to shift focus away from the voices of despair, the voices of people who actually live this life, this fear, this injustice everyday toward discussions of how if the dead boy had been more perfect, he'd still be alive today. Of course they want to change the discussion, because actually stopping, listening, and bearing witness to this pain is so much. And it forces us to look at ourselves and how we have benefited from a system that holds down so many others.

I have to tell you, I'm so sick, so tired of hearing it. Two years later, as my child grows more beautiful and more imperfect by the day, I feel even more terrified and helpless when I hear about Trayvon's pot smoking or about Mike Brown's shoplifting as justification for their deaths. I'm so disheartened when white folks who say absolutely nothing about justice for people of color have quite a lot to say about the riots after another exoneration of a black man's killer by a majority white jury. I'll tell you this: If it were my kid or the kids in my community being killed with impunity, I'd be doing a hell of a lot worse than throwing rocks.

Greg and I try our damndest to raise good kids. We're doing a pretty decent job, I think. But no matter how hard we try, we are never, ever going to raise perfect kids. That becomes more and more clear as they get older. They will push limits. They will make stupid choices. They won't always show as much respect and deference to authority figures as they probably should. But I only feel a chill in my spine when one of my children shows me that he won't ever be perfect. Because time and again, society tells me that anything less than perfection in a black male is justification for on-the-spot execution.

If you're tempted to reply to this post with arguments about the guilt or innocence of the dead boys, just stop. Channel your energy into considering the pain and injustice of the fact that time and again, these boys are killed without ever having a chance to prove their guilt or innocence. Stop. Bear witness. Believe black people when they take the time to share their experiences. Don't try to explain the experiences away, because you haven't lived them. Neither have I, but I'm listening and hoping to glean some insights and use my privilege to make life better for my son and for every other mother's son who won't walk through this life with the benefit of the doubt granted by white skin.

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