I fear I’ve failed you by teaching you skin color doesn’t matter . . . when clearly it does. I fear I haven’t prepared you for this current racial chaos. I fear I’ve been naive. Skin color does matter, and I struggle with feeding you the narrative that it doesn’t.
Who would’ve ever predicted 20 years ago that today we’d be living in the most racially charged climate of my lifetime? I fear I haven’t prepared you for this, that you’ll feel I’ve played a cruel joke by duping you into believing your outer layer doesn’t matter when it does. Maybe I should’ve taught you something different. Something closer to the truth.
I’m sorry you’ll have to work so hard to prove your intelligence and worth–perhaps even your humanity– because of the black skin that houses your intellect and hearts. I’m sorry it may appear your preparation for life as black men may have been inadequate. We’ve tried to equip you with tools for success, regardless of race. But we’ve also coached you on society’s unwritten rules for black men. What you should and shouldn’t wear, how to show respect, how to conduct yourselves with dignity, and how to speak properly and confidently.
You accused us of trying to “control your lives.” Our instructions, dear sons, were for times such as this. People will judge you based on these elements, and it could mean the difference between life and death for you.
Despite what we know about our country’s history, we’ve taught you to assume the best. I’ve quelled my doubts and encouraged you look deeper than color. Maybe I was wrong.
How can I continue to tell you race doesn’t matter when statistics tell us those who’ve sworn to protect and serve shoot black men at a higher rate than they shoot white men? Or when you’ve been repeatedly pulled over by police who are “randomly” checking vehicles in the predominately white area we live in.
I’ve never pretended that racism doesn’t exist. I’ve felt its sting. I’ve been trailed through stores. Shop owners have asked to search my purse. Tellers have eyed me with suspicion and scrutinized me when I’ve withdrawn my own money from the bank. I know humiliation. We all have prejudices. It’s part of our humanness. But know this: You can’t allow the actions of a few to color your view of the whole world.
You’ve faced little discrimination in your short lives, and I’m thankful. But you’re not immune to it. So don’t be fooled into thinking you are. The devastating stories we’ve seen in the media could’ve just as easily been about you, but for the grace of God. And your name could become a hashtag to remind us of some dreadful incident. It doesn’t matter you’re from a two-parent home. It doesn’t matter you’re from a middle class family, articulate, and educated because the first thing people see is the color of your skin.
As your mother, I’m compelled to help you make sense of this craziness.
In spite of what you see or hear, all white people aren’t “the enemy.” Don’t let anyone convince you they are. It’s simply not true. Know history, but don’t let it cripple you. A victim mentality will limit you economically and emotionally.
I wish I could return you to the womb, to warmth and safety. But I can’t. This has to be your experience. Your story to tell. Sifting through this confusion, anger, and hurt may wound you. Use my wisdom as salve to calm the irritation. And make no mistake about where I stand. First, you’re responsible for yourselves, your families, and your community. Second, you’re bound by the rules of society and the law. I know you’ll respect that. I’ve raised you to be men of character and integrity.
Most police officers want to help you. You need to be wise and remember what we’ve taught you. If the police pull you over, respect them. They deserve it. Comply with their wishes and pray all goes well. If it doesn’t, I hope I’ve armed you with the tools to fight ignorance with grace.
Next, live without fear, but be aware of your surroundings. Even though I don’t believe the vast majority of people are racist, there’s usually a fringe element who may want to retaliate, and you may fall victim to senseless violence.
Even though you’ve heard this all before, I can’t risk leaving a stone unturned. Your lives are too precious to me.
This is a low period in our country. This is not America at its best. But your father and I still believe this is the best place in the world for you. As you transition into adulthood, you’ll have an opportunity to be beacons of hope and examples of what is best about America by treating everyone–regardless of race, social stature, or religious affiliation–with respect, compassion, and dignity.
Lastly, I pray I haven’t done you an injustice. I believe you will benefit by choosing content over skin color and love over hate. I couldn’t be prouder of the men you’re becoming. Allow others to see the fullness of America by being the best you can be.
Live strong and be safe.
This post was originally published on Real Moms Don’t Judge… We Just Suggest.
About the Author
Sheila Qualls offers encouragement and hope to moms—stay-at-home or otherwise—as she shares humorous stories about her humiliating and humbling moments. After having 5 kids, she’s learned to look at life’s awkward moments from a less serious perspective. Pre-kids, Sheila worked for an Army newspaper as the editor-in-chief and dreamed of a high-powered career conducting 60 Minutes-type interviews exposing the truth. As a wife and mom, she still gets to conduct investigations and expose truth. But, she doesn’t get paid a dime for it. She blogs at Real Moms Don’t Judge. . . We Just Suggest for women who know life’s not perfect, don’t expect it to be, but are willing to get out of bed everyday and find ways to face whatever comes their way. Sheila’s been married to her high school sweetheart for 30 years. In those 30 years, she’s moved 10 times, home schooled in six states, sent 3 kids to college, survived a life-changing, near fatal car accident, and owned two dogs and a ferret (may they rest in peace). She and her family currently live in Colorado. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
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