Today my job’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee hosted a “community” discussion, which gave employees a chance to discuss and share their experiences of being black in America. We heard many different stories about experiences with the police and even a white male shared about how he married a black woman and they were both dragged out of the car and beaten just for being married to each other at a time where interracial marriages were not accepted. But one story that really struck me was a woman who talked about raising her black sons. As she spoke, her tears fell. She talked about the anxiety that consumes her whenever her son makes a six hour drive to and from college. She talked about how she made them wait until they were 18 to get drivers licenses because she wanted to be sure they were “mature” enough to engage with police (deep sigh). I can only imagine what that is like to fear sending your sons out into the world – I have a daughter.
When the webinar was over, I took a stroll down my timeline on Facebook. One of the young men from my church is graduating tomorrow and his mother posted about it. Through the smiles and the joy that leaped from the page, I was really experiencing a proud moment until my heart sunk. I saw all of the great things that this world has to offer him while at the same time I feared what a world like this could do to him in the midst of the ignorance of racism.
He’s not MY son, but still….
I immediately felt a sense of sadness and fear come over me. I’ve been there with this young man as he’s grown up. I’ve worked with him in ministry. I’ve witnessed him stand before the church and teach us about God. I’ve celebrated his many accomplishments. I’ve seen him excel in both sports and academics. He’s never been a trouble maker and there’s a long list of good deeds he’s done for the people around him and strangers as well. I’ve witnessed his innocence as a child and how he sees the world. But, I fear that the world won’t see him beyond his brown skin and it saddens me. He’s not MY son, but still… I fear for him and those like him.
The most overwhelming of it all is that I don’t just fear for him, but I fear for all of the sons of Black America. They have a right to LIVE and to BREATHE! Yes, they too have a right to LIVE and to BREATHE! They have the right to be seen as an equal. They have a right to succeed. They have a right to make a mistake and they have a right to correct it without their lives being snatched away from them. They have a right to ask, “why?” They have a right to resist. They have a right to be upset about injustice. THEY HAVE A RIGHT!
They aren’t MY sons, but still….
Still I fear the imminent risk that they face for just being black. For just having black skin. For just being who they are and who God created them to be. I fear for them and I pray that they will never become a modern day Emmett Till. I fear that they won’t lose their freedom or their life just because they were misjudged on the basis of their skin tone.
They aren’t MY sons, but still….
I’m proud of their resilience in the face of racism and hatred and the betrayal that they often face at no fault of their own. I’m proud of how they still soar, rising high above the clouds like an eagle. I’m proud of how they still love in a world that doesn’t always love them back. I’m proud that they still find strength to forgive the slaps in the face that they experience over and over again. They aren’t my sons, but I’m proud.
They aren’t MY sons, but still…
I pray for them as if they were my own because I’m sure it’s been a rough week for them – if they’ve seen the story unfold just as I have. How sad. How traumatizing. How disappointing. How sickening. How overwhelming. How discouraging. And yet, it’s amazing how they still can hold their heads high in the face of adversity.
I’m exhausted this week and I’m drained from crying over sons that I didn’t give birth to. I just wanted you to know that I’m praying for your sons. I’ve always prayed for your sons, but I pray differently now. They aren’t my sons, but I pray for them as if they are.
They aren’t my sons, but still…
I’ll leave you with something encouraging from Stephanie Lahart. Share it with your sons and other young black males around you. They need to hear it. They need to be encouraged in all the chaos.
“Dear Young Black Males, It’s okay to be different. Don’t be afraid to be yourself. Have Courage! Follow your dreams, no matter how BIG your dreams may seem. Attitude is everything! Make sure you keep a positive one, in spite of any obstacles that may come your way. Don’t be so quick to give up, and please remember that self-discipline is your friend. Be strong, persevere, and most importantly, BELIEVE in yourself. Don’t listen to anybody’s negativity. Move forward knowing that you CAN and you WILL be unstoppable!”