Raising a Black Boy

Author: Jessica Dautruche

In 2008, when Barack Obama was elected, I was more than happy, I was ecstatic. The Obama’s family portrait stood next to our collection of family photos and we had a life size cutout of our new President in the living room. One of the first famous faces my son could recognize and identify was “Barack-0-bama.” I was so incredibly grateful that my son was growing up knowing there was a president - a leader - who looked like him. When I told Jordan he could be anything he wanted to be it felt a little bit more real for me and for him. I could see it, my son, running for political office, working to make positive change in the world - his face on posters and crowds yelling his name. I would be standing on the side of the stage at the rally, with tears of joy, so proud of my son.

I found myself dropping my son at preschool, fighting to hold back tears and devastated, after stories hit national news and grand juries decided not to return indictments.

It did not take too long for my day dreams to develop into nightmares. The faces and stories of other young black boys and men overwhelmed my consciousness -Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, Eric Garner, Walter Scott, Michael Brown, Freddy Gray, and so many others. With every story, the reality of the world we lived in became more apparent. I watched videos of their mothers at rallies and my heart physically hurt. I could see it, my son, killed - his face on posters, crowds yelling his name. I could be standing on a stage - with tears of unbearable pain, pleading to others to help me make a change in the world.

I found myself dropping my son at preschool, fighting to hold back tears and devastated, after stories hit national news and grand juries decided not to return indictments. In our predominantly white town, I had to watch other parents and teachers happily walk around smiling as if it was any other day. I was desperately trying to think of ways I could protect my son - should I change his diet so he could look less strong and threatening? What if I never let him wear a fitted hat, baggy jeans, or a hoody? Maybe I should bring him to meet every police officer in our area so they can learn to see the sweet and innocent kid I see. I’ll need to be a lot stricter as I discipline and teach Jordan because, apparently, every mistake he makes could cost him his life. When the hysteria started to settle, the tears didn’t stop. I only started to realize that there was nothing I could really do to protect my son from this world of racism and hate. I had to become numb to the reality to get through the day.

All I want for my son is safety, security, happiness, and the opportunity for success and I imagine so many other parents want the same.

At 6 years old, people often tell Jordan how cute and funny he is, but I know I don’t have long before he is more often perceived as dangerous and less than. For now, he doesn’t ever get to play cops and robbers, use a water gun, or play video games. As he grows into a young black man, that list will grow. I am terrified of holding the responsibility of raising a black man. There is a parent’s safety guide for car seats, pools, medicine cabinets but I’m yet to see the “How to keep your black child from being killed by the police” or “How to keep your child out of the preschool to prison pipeline.”

All I want for my son is safety, security, happiness, and the opportunity for success and I imagine so many other parents want the same. How are we working to create the world we want our children to live in? I know this is no easy undertaking but I truly believe that if we harness the love parents and caregivers have for their children, we can make real change in the world. What we all do for Black History Month matters, the conversations we have (and don’t have) with our children matter. The families we do and don't invite over for play dates matter. The list could continue but we all know progress has to start somewhere. We don’t have to fix every problem in the world today but we can plant the seeds we want to grow.

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