Raising a son in Trayvon’s America
John W. Fountain July 17, 2013 7:38PM
Updated: August 19, 2013 3:46PM
What will I teach my son?
What, amid the bitter cold realities of growing up as a black boy in Trayvon Martin’s America, where the hue of his skin is his only sin?
In one America, black, where my son’s race and gender can make him a murderous target of boys who look just like him, and the other America, white, in which black males are presumed guilty until proven innocent, expendable on sight — whenever fear, suspicion and hate over them furiously percolate.
In a world where my son, now 11, soon will be perceived as menace, suspect, rapist, killer, robber, mugger, thug. Though he is just a boy — a good boy — with red American blood. And his deep chocolate skin is his American sin.
What do I teach him when hate rises like a cold, unforgiving wind?
And if he is accosted by a man with a gun, should I teach him to stand his ground or run?
At first sign of trouble, should he call me on his cell — when any sudden movement can make a cop blow him to hell?
Should I ban the hoodie, locks and braids? Will a shaved head, close crop or Afro offer a less brutal fate? Will a good suit, crisp white shirt and tie earn him respect? Or will the color of his skin simply negate that effect?
Should I wash his mouth of all ghetto speak, and fill his mind with Whitman and Keats? Should I impart the lessons of Ellison’s “Invisible Man,” of Richard Wright, DuBois, or Langston Hughes as best I can?
Will speaking the King’s English save his life — in an America where racial hatred still cuts like a knife, and the blood of black boys flows in our streets, and graveyard beds are where too many prematurely sleep?
And if I teach my son to wisely choose his friends, to love humanity and respect his fellow man, to do good and endeavor to walk upright, how can I know that these will save his life?
Do I really tell him all that awaits on the other side of our door? About how black life in America has always meant less, not more? That justice is for the rich, not for the poor. That for the rest of his life, it is his chocolate male skin that some will abhor?
What will I teach my son whose beautiful brown skin is his only sin? That not everyone white is your enemy. And that not everyone black is your friend.
I will teach him to keep any encounters with police short and sweet. To be respectful and always carry ID. Not to suddenly reach for his phone, wallet or keys. To memorize this like his ABCs.
To avoid gangs and drugs and thugs. To remember my lessons and never forget my love.
I will tell my son that from the moment I first laid eyes on you, wet from your mother’s womb, my heart pounded with a father’s love and joy anew.
And that you, my deep-chocolate son, no matter what the world might say, are perfect, just the way God made you: black and beautiful.