I have two mixed sons. They are beautiful. One is still an infant the older just started school. They are Black and Salvadoran part Cuban. My oldest knows he is black because I have told him. But I haven’t told him. He is still to young to understand the weight of that word, the subliminal meanings, the connotations, the burden, and the blessing of that word. Black. So how do I tell my son about his blackness?
I have taught him that old song by James brown, I’m black and I’m proud, but that song in a vacuum without context can not reveal the pride and against from which it was composed.
I ask this question in light of being dazed from reading Between the World and Me. In it the author writes to his own son to prepare him to understand what it means to be black.
So how do I tell my son about his blackness?
This question will always be personal, and yet always collective. My blackness was gifted to me by God, and then customized by my father and mother. Different shades, different stories collided and merged forming one new hue, a new chapter, a new page to the narrative of being black in America.
My father grew up in the inner city on the West Coast, my mother in the south. They were raised a different era, an era before mine, one where Jim Crow was still in tow, where one could be beaten simply by looking a white man in the eye while walking the street. My uncle told us of a time where they got into a fight in Texas on vacation because one of the white youth called them niggers. Overt racism wasn’t limited to the south. Even on the West Coast blacks weren’t allowed in certain beaches and to go into certain parts of town. Things were worse back then. My parents were alive to witness MLK ‘s assassination, Malcolm X’s assassination. Kennedy’s Assassination. When we watch films like Selma or the Butler those are not just past footage, but memories. Memories of times where nigger, was more prevalent than nigga, when schools had not yet been integrated. My parents witnessed the fruits of the civil rights era, but also became parents during the beginnings of crack and gang eras. Their generation and the generation before has probably seen more change than any before, but they’ve also seen how much has not changed.
How do I tell my son that daddy’s grandma’s grandma was the daughter of a slave? I mean what other race in America has that legacy. When you see images of victims of police brutality, you see the face of a black man. When you see the victims of inner city gun violence; its a black man.
Thankfully my son was alive to witness the face of a president; a black man.
I have isolated and shielded my son from much of the world. He is still young. His school has a decent number of mixed children, but is mostly white and white hispanic and hardly any all black. Most of the churches he has been a part of where either multicultural, or mostly white. There’s a story for that, but that’s for a different time.
Soon he will know and discover that for many to be black means people will lower expectations except when it comes to athleticism, or music.
If he gets into a good college people will by default ask whether it was through affirmative action.
If he gets upset, people will assume he has an anger problem.
If he’s walking down the street at night with a hoodie, people will feel more threatened.
If he talks proper they will assume he is trying to be white.
If he can’t dance, they will ask why not?
If he doesn’t get an opportunity that he was qualified for he will always have to wonder if it was because of his lack of talent, or due to his blackness?
He will be a minority in many places, and see things from a different lense.
Fortunately for my sons some of these they will experience, others they will not simply for the fact that they are mixed. In fact the darker or blacker one is, the more intensely they will have to deal with these questions.
Despite all of these stereotypes, like scripture says I am fearfully and wonderfully made. That when God made his blackness, he called it good. In fact Adam was most likely a black man. As most scientists claim the first man and women came from Africa. I will tell my son of the early kings, of the inventors, the Dubois, the Douglasses, the Equiano’s and Whitely’s, the Washingtons and of Simon of Cyrene, of Jethro, and others.
I will tell my son that there’s a beauty in our blackness. A special strength. A special burden. That God has gifted us with a special song for the world to hear. A song for every mountain he brought us over, through every trial he’s seen us through. A special hallelujah from a faith that has been tested in scourgings, lynchings and beatings. That despite the worst intentions to destroy this race, and destroy our faith. Our enemies have failed. This is our legacy. That in the darkest of nights, we stood fast and have held tight to the master’s hand. That even in the shadow of death, our God has always been with us.We have a testimony, and if the last shall be first and the first shall be last, trust me there will be a lot of dark skinned people sitting close to Jesus at that banquet in heaven.
I will tell my son that he will have tribulation for three things; knowing Jesus and being black & latino. Yet to be of good cheer because Christ over came the world.
So how do I tell my son of his blackness? With a grave face and a smile, with a stern voice and a song. Say it loud. I’m black and I’m proud.