As a Black Mother, I Spend Every Day Worried For My Son
As of today, I have been a mother for 887 days. This doesn't include the nine-plus months I spent stretching and morphing physically, mentally, and emotionally so that my son could take up space in my body and heart. Right now, I watch pain transform to protest and tears turn to rage and think, "What if it was me? What if it was my son's body in a viral video?"
I have cried every other day for the last couple of weeks because I could be the mother giving press conferences and begging for justice that should be given freely. I am raising a son who could be denied life-changing opportunities, judged guilty before proven innocent, or be the victim of a hate crime. And I could be a victim of all that, too. In these moments, when I transition from one thought to the next, I experience the unspoken fear of a Black mother: the fear of not knowing whether the beautiful child I brought into this world will die at the hands of someone who didn't see him as valuable enough to protect.
My worry is that no matter how much I sacrifice for him, it won't be enough.
My worry is that no matter how much I sacrifice for him, it won't be enough. Even if I provide him with quality education, ensure he's so well spoken he doesn't "sound Black," and keep him out of disadvantaged neighborhoods that would keep him marginalized, he may still not get a fair chance at life. It sometimes feels like no matter what I do to level the playing field, the odds are stacked against him because he's Black.
Although my son is only 2 years old, I have already started thinking about ways to warn him about the dangers of being born into a Black body. I am thinking about how to build his self-esteem before it's broken by racism. There is no way I can do this without educating him and making him more aware. It is important that I tell him despite what people say or what he may hear, racism isn't antiquated. It is present and resents him for having the audacity to exist, to live, and to flourish.
A practical way I've started doing this is by buying him books with characters that look like him so he feels represented and seen. I want him to start to feel a sense of belonging, even if it's within the safe pages of books, because I know in the future, he may end up in spaces that aren't as diverse and don't have as much representation. By buying him culturally diverse books, I also hope to send the message that all races are created equal and should be given the same respect.
I am also creating a little library of Black literature, so that as he grows, he'll be well informed. I want him to understand all facets of Blackness, including the ones that aren't taught in formal education. I write affirmations especially created for Black boys, so I can tell him who he is before the world outside tells him what he's not. I constantly remind him that he's smart, worthy, handsome, and can exceed the world's expectations.
As a Black woman, I'm educating myself on racial injustice, my rights, and how to deal with police so I can pass the knowledge to him when he's old enough to understand. I'm also preparing to tell him stories about modern-day injustices because I can no longer only tell him stories about how his ancestors lost their lives in a war against race. I'll have to tell him that racial discrimination didn't end at the abolition of slavery or at the end of racial segregation. In a few years, I'll have to tell him that in 2020 — centuries after slavery was abolished — Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and many more lost their lives because they dared to be Black. I'm fearful because I have to do everything in my power to ensure he doesn't lose his for the same reason.