In the last several months, we’ve witnessed the murders of four African Americans. Ahmed Aubry was hunted and shot down in the street. Breanna Taylor shot eight times in the supposed safety of her own home. George Floyd strangled to death under the knee of a monster. Now the latest Rayshad Brooks shot in the back twice while fleeing from the police.
Furthermore, in the black community, the trauma is way too real and remains for months in the psyche.
If an adult’s mental and emotional state is in turmoil, you can only imagine what it’s like for a black child. In 2016 and 2018, it was discovered that black children ages 5–11 had the highest death by suicide. The stress of racism is deadly to black youth.
Microaggressions, racist remarks, and fear from the public add to the trauma. Every day it’s mental acrobatics to survive the negativity which surrounds being black in America.
Today I thought about this mental taxation more in-depth after a conversation my wife, and I had with our nine-year-old son.
His mom was sitting on the side of his bed when he looked up at her and said something which rattled us to our cores as parents. He said, “I don’t want to be black when I grow up because the police will kill me.”
Tears welled up in our eyes as we sat there, astonished that our precious little boy, who loves his action figures and stuffed animals is thinking he will die because of his race.
When I was growing up in the 80’s Officer Friendly visited our school often to pass out coloring books and talk about how the police were our friends. The tragedy is I believed him until I learned better. I found out the true nature of the police after Rodney King. After that, I knew for sure where my race stood with law enforcement.
My son has no officer friendly. He can’ t enjoy the innocence of believing the police exist to serve and protect him equally.
We saw a week ago how a DUI in a drive-thru could lead to a young man lying dead in the street as others witnesses the life drain from his body.
I wish I could shelter our son from these brutal facts about our position in America, but if I do, I am not doing my job as a parent. These lessons may save his life. The talk, which all black families have with their children is a right of passage into the world of surviving while black.
We have three kids of varying ages, so we’ve given the talk about the police three times. However, I didn’t expect to have it with my little boy quite yet. We wanted to preserve his innocence a bit longer, but black parents don’t have that luxury.
I envy my white counterparts who can protect their young children’s innocence. Their children don’t often come to them with hard questions about the police. That protection or sense of safety around the police is in the White Privilege toolbox.
I hope there is a dialogue about race in a white home after deadly violence is perpetrated against a person of color. In honesty, if you are white and silent, you are complicit in the oppression of African Americans. If you do and say nothing future black children will tell their parents blackness is a death sentence.
The only way to combat this type of negative thinking is through education. We must explain to our kids that being a member of the African American race can lead to death at the hands of the police.
We told our son about great African Americans like Charles Drew, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and Barack Obama. We are obliged to tell him about all the contributions blacks made to America. If we don’t, he will continue to associate his race with death and fear. We cannot allow that to continue if we do his self-image and esteem may be ruined.
I wonder about the young person that doesn’t have the family support to help navigate the trauma of blackness. How does a child navigate a racist world when there is no help available to them?
I am sad for any child who doesn’t have a supportive and attentive parent at home to share their experiences as a black youth.
However, sometimes children, like our own, have all they need but still can’t handle the stress. It’s even stated in the black community that suicide is a “white problem” and that we can take the weight because we are accustomed to the pressure of dealing with systemic racism. That type of stereotypical thinking is possibly a death sentence for a child suffering.
I am not only envious of the lack of fear an average white child has of the police, but I am also angry. My wife and I shouldn’t have to fear for our child in a country that brands itself as the land of the free.
We don’t deserve this burden. Our ancestors didn’t ask to be stolen from their native continent, Africa, to become beast of burden. We didn’t desire being stripped of our humanity and becoming three-fifths of a person.
No human being would build a country on their backs only to be denied full access upon emancipation. Who wants to be robbed? I am sure our forefathers didn’t envision four hundred years later we would still be in the fight for full economic and social equality.
But we are, and now our kids are being stripped of innocence at the tender age of 9.
I am angry and frustrated because my kid deserves better in a country built with the blood of his ancestors.
I hope when he is an adult, he never has this same conversation with his kid because racism is a thing of the past. However, I am afraid that it’s only a pipe dream.
Estacious(Charles White) is a 23-year educator. He began writing over 25 years ago. His work experience encompasses managing schools and teaching a variety of subjects. His passions are poetry, short fiction, playwrighting, and non-fiction. He won one of six prizes in the Rockford play festival for his play “Incarcerated Christmas.” He is married with three children and a native of New Orleans. Email: email@example.com
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