My oldest son and I were driving together recently and I decided to take advantage of the rare occasion that it was just the two of us, he wasn’t engrossed in a book or video game and he was in a chatty mood.
“Did you all have any discussions in school yesterday about what’s going on in Ferguson?”
“Yes ma’am. We talked about it in a few of my classes. It’s terrible they shot him because he was wearing a hoodie. He was just walking home.”
Brief moment of confusion on my part.
“Son, that’s the Trayvon Martin case. That happened almost three years ago. I was asking about the incident where Michael Brown was shot by a police officer in August of this year.”
There was more discussion. Actually, a very good discussion on our ride about race relations in his school, how he feels as a young multi-cultural teen, and how everything is happening in the world around us directly impacts him, our families and communities.
But the beginning of our conversation kept nagging at me. Besides the fact that my ADHD child can have moments where he completely spaces out and as many teenagers are can be clueless about anything that doesn’t directly impact them in the right here and now.
It nagged me because there were so many references he had to instances where children that looked like him were dead. It nagged me because names were listed off in such a matter-of-fact way.
I tried to recall what the pressing headlines were when I was his age and whether or not they involved children my age or close to it.
Was I that sheltered as a teenager?
Was I self-absorbed?
Is it because of the rise of the Internet and social media outlets that instances that may have not gotten coverage outside of their local viewing area or state are now making headlines worldwide?
I fear that my sons will one day be too aggressive or too loud or too “ethnic” (yes, a real term that a former manager used to describe African-American and Hispanic employees) in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Sadly, these fears are justified by news stories that are reported on a regular basis. It makes you wonder about the ones that don’t even make headlines.
Not everyone will get it. Not everyone will be able to accept it. If you’ve never been told you were born the wrong color or refused service because they didn’t like “your kind” or told you couldn’t sit in a seat in the back of a bus because “your people” fought to sit up front so get your n-word butt up to the front to make them proud – then you may not be able to get it. If you’ve never been denied a rental home because when the owners made the appointment for “Brad and Michelle” to do a walk through they didn’t expect a young black couple to show up and didn’t feel we would be a good fit for their neighborhood and had no problem matter-of-factly stating it. If you’ve never experienced these things, you may not be able to understand the wariness in one’s soul when they hear of social injustice to their culture.
I say “may not” because there are friends and loved ones from all walks of life and from all cultures that do get it. They have witnessed it, they have stood beside their friends and spoke up and out, and they are angered and frustrated.
A friend posted on her Facebook wall last week about her fears for her blonde hair, blue haired children – child sex trade and prostitution rings are real and happening in cities and towns across the US. I got where she was coming from. I didn’t try to demean or diminish her fears.
The fears for our children and our society at large are justifiable.
My faith is important to me and it helps to alleviate many of those fears. It helps to keep me from lashing out in anger. It helps me to hold my head up high despite what others may think or feel about me. It helps me find the words to give my children and instill within them a pride of their history and a fantastic outlook on their futures.
My community – online and local – gives me hope and support. I believe if we continue to have those conversations and are spurred to action that we can unite and uplift. I believe if we do our civic duties by voting, being present and informed at neighborhood association, school and government meetings – we can make a difference.
There’s power in our voice and it’s time for us to set the example for our children.
#VoicesForOurSons began as a collaboration between myself and five fellow mothers. We will be collectively sharing our voices and our social media reach. We are all raising young boys and believe in the concept that it takes a village to raise a child.
We will be sharing their successes, their opportunities for growth, their dreams, and their aspirations. While our experiences may differ, collectively we speak for our sons.
I challenge you to join us and add your voice and your passion.
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