I quickly went into the grocery store and came out to my son waiting patiently in the car, brushing his hair forward. Like many other African-American males, he was brushing his freshly cut hair in order to create “waves.” At first I used to joke with him about brushing his hair “all day.” Then when he started bringing the brush out with us, and brushing in the car, I began to feel uneasy.
I started up the car and contemplated would I now have this conversation with him, the uneasiness I felt over him lifting up a brush in public. I finally took a deep breath and began to talk. My exact words were, “Honey, I would like you to be more mindful about holding your brush up while we’re out.”
“How come?” he asked while brushing.
“Well…” and I stuttered and stumbled over my words. “Well, I have no idea of how to say this and I don’t even wanna. I’ve wanted to raise you differently. The fact is, I’m just gonna say it. If a young Black male can get shot holding candy, I feel afraid of you holding up a brush while out.” I hated with every part of my being saying that statement.
My son stopped brushing and looked at me. He asked, “Who was that again?”
I said “Travyon Martin.”
He said, “Oh yeah, Trayvon Martin,” and stared forward.
I talked to my son as I always have since he was young, telling him the truth in age appropriate language. Now that he’s 12 and very politically conscious, I talk to him realistically. I told him how for years I studied metaphysics and planned on raising him, a Black male child, with the consciousness that he was safe and could do anything he set his mind on achieving. I raised him with positive statements, love, and strong boundaries. He’s seen me go through struggles as a parent, and I displayed a very positive mentality.
Then, a couple years ago I felt as if I were doing him a disservice. I felt as if ignoring the problems that stared us in the face, and pretending everything was okay, was actually doing more harm than good. I slowly began allowing him to see me process the frustrations. I let him see some of my emotions and the process of pulling myself back up. I talked to him more about what he would hear on the news and in school about the different Black males and females being shot for holding candy, for being in their own backyard, and countless other situations.
This particular day I told him that although I wanted him to have a positive mindset, it was also important for him to be conscious. I reiterated my fears, “If Amadou Diallo can be shot holding a phone, Trayvon Martin holding candy, Sandra Bland for driving while Black, I just have fears about you holding up a brush in public.” As usual, I asked him how he felt. He put his brush down and said, “I understand.”
This conversation was another painful one between my son and me. It’s the opposite of how I declared I would raise him those years ago he grew in my belly. My beautiful son who loves Anime, and can either read all day or play video games if I let him. My social child who enjoys sports and spending time with friends. My Black male tween who I’ve now adapted my ways of being in order to raise him in today’s society.
I still teach my son a positive mindset, which he has. It’s a beautiful thing to see a confidant Black male child. He also has the balance of maintaining that mindset during a time where social media blasts about police brutality against Black and Brown peoples, while white male assassins are taken down gently after they have murdered several people with assault rifles.
I briefly wondered if this was the right time for this conversation. That hesitation lasted about five seconds. It was the right time and I’m grateful that he put down the brush.
Thank you for reading.