Raising African American Sons in America
Ending racism will take courage. Courage to look ourselves in the mirror and to ask where by our action, inaction, denial or sheer indifference we are complacent in the racism that we see around us. Finding courage first demands recognizing that regardless of our position, power or even the hue of our skin, we are more powerful than we think - and never underestimating the ripple effect we set in motion when we decide to be the change we wish to see in the world around us.
I believe that we have an strong obligation to amplify that ripple effect by raising the next generation of children to be more aware, learned and determined than those which have gone before them, because the only way we will ever end the racism that still runs deep in American culture, and in other countries around the world, is not only when white people – but ALL people, care about ending it as deeply as African-American people do.
The most important thing for our future generation of African-American youths to know, will be that it is not their fault, and that they are in no way responsible for the physical and emotional violence this world has sought to exact upon their bodies. This is an immensely difficult task, because we live in a country that operates under a myth of personal responsibility and individualism. We inculcate young people with the message that if they don’t succeed, it is merely of their own doing. They should have worked harder, we say. They should have made better decisions. This message is especially present in communities of color. Thus, when a child is on the receiving of prejudice, vitriol and violence, – they accept, as they have been taught to do, the myth is that: they have done something to deserve this reality.
Now, this is not to absolve people of responsibility for their actions. Individuals should have accountability. But if we are not grounding people’s actions and ways of navigating the world in an understanding of the realities that shape such decisions, then we’re being disingenuous to what is taking place. All of which is to say, I would tell them to be careful, be brave, but be themselves. Don’t let anyone strip away those parts of you that make you the brilliant, beautiful person you are!
More, part of the issue is that we have a narrow definition of how we discuss and define racism in this country. It is a hot topic! We tend to think of racism as this interpersonal verbal or physical abuse, when in truth, that is only one way that racism manifests itself. The reality of contemporary racism is that it while it is ubiquitous, it is often invisible, subsequently making it more difficult to name and identify. This, however, does not make it less real, it actually makes it more pernicious.
I tend to believe in the best of people, and I think part of the issue is that many people simply aren’t aware – some refuse to become “aware” in wake of all the racial atrocities that’s clearly being played out in the media. Contrary to popular belief ignorance is NOT bliss. If someone isn’t aware of something then they can do nothing to change their behavior. If someone, however, is aware and decides not to change their behavior or remains willfully ignorant, makes for a sad and different story.