It’s felt like more than a notion to make myself sit down and write about what it feels like to raise a Black son in 2020. When Tre was born in 2012 my focus was on having a smooth and stress-free delivery, and learning how to adjust to being a mother. As the first few years went on, we fell into our groove as a family and got accustomed to life as we know it. Then Michael Brown, Jr. was killed in Ferguson, Missouri. I remember watching news coverage with my husband and a part of me felt twice removed because, while my 30-something year old Black male spouse sat next to me, my 2-year old son lay asleep in his bed. Life went on and the routine became familiar again until Tamir Rice was killed in Cleveland. Again, while I was saddened, part of me felt removed because my son was so young. Time went on and I became familiar with the names of other Black men and women who lost their lives at the hands of police (some right here in Baltimore)…then 2020 hit and it all changed.
The deaths of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and mistreatment of Christian Cooper did not leave me feeling removed AT ALL. In fact, more of me felt like I could resonate with the pain of their families and loved ones. Why did I feel it now more than before? Probably because I allowed myself to feel it. I opened my ears in a different way and took in the pain and agony in the faces and voices of those who were hurting. The videos left me saddened as I searched for answers and comfort. I sat there thinking about what I would do if it was my husband and son.
At 8-years-old, Tre is beginning to formulate his lasting memory and he’s putting together those strings to create images he’ll hold onto forever. Not only does it make me pause to know COVID-19 will forever be a part of his memory, it saddens me to think that part of those memories will include seeing ‘that woman’ call the police in a fabricated allegation against Christian Cooper in Central Park. It absolutely pains me to think about him seeing news coverage about Ahmaud Arbery’s murder and the murder of George Floyd at the hands of the very people who are supposed to protect and serve.
I took my own advice on how to talk to Tre about all of this and I allowed him to take in information (at age appropriate doses). I followed that up with asking him questions, he shared his thoughts and I offered perspective for what he shared. No lie- it was hard sometimes to remember I was talking to a 2nd grader and not a young adult and say more than he was prepared for. I did make it crystal clear to him that Black people are, and have been, historically treated differently than people of other races for reasons that do not make any logical sense. I made no mistake to tell him that I think about his safety, his father’s safety and how the ‘world’ will look at them when they leave the comforts of our home. I told him the ‘world’ will not care about his father and I’s degrees, jobs, what contributions we have made to the City of Baltimore, or anything of value when they decide to treat us unfairly because we are Black.
I know I’m not alone in being concerned about the safety and well-being of my child. As I write this, I think about my friends who have daughters and sons and how we all want the absolute best for our children and, if it was up to us, they would never have to experience disappointment, despair, agony, or even worse- mistreatment based on who they are. Unfortunately, we can’t prevent that, and that fact is the most frightening part.
As I am eight years into my Motherhood journey, I am committed to doing several things to build up the person my son is and equip him with the character and educational tools he will need. That means continuing to educate him about his lineage, the contributions African and Black people have made to this world and how some of those people are right inside of his immediate family. I see the pride he has and I want that to be strengthened and grow.
That also means being intentional about focusing on joy. While my awareness is definitely heightened, I refuse to live in worry and fear and pass that onto Tre because that is no way to live. Focusing on joy looks like participating in activities that make him happy and with people that affirm him for who he is. Focusing on joy sounds like positive affirmations spoken in the face of fear, it sounds like laughter and prayers of gratefulness for the big and small things. Focusing on joy feels like having peace in his mind and body and the comfort in knowing he can do anything he sets his mind on. Focusing on joy is knowing he has a loving and supportive family who will always be there for him.
In the midst of all that is happening in the world, I encourage you to focus on one thing- joy. –krystal