“It is easier to build strong children than it is to repair broken men.”- Fredrick Douglas
I am sitting at my keyboard, working on this blog for the fourth time. Above my head are photos of my 12-year-old son, ranging from his first birthday to last year when he was in the fifth grade. Currently, he stands at 5 foot 8 inches tall, weighs about 180 pounds and wears a size 13 shoe. He’s a true mama’s boy, my twin in personality, attitude, and can’t forget the sarcasm. He’s also brilliant, sometimes, too smart for his good. Last year, he wanted to be an engineer and a Cardiologist. However, all of that seemed to change when in February, he informed me he wants to become a rapper and producer.
He went on to tell me that Biggie (Notorious B.I.G) is his favorite MC. Everything is changing and happening so fast. He started middle school in the fall of 2018, and the rush of hormones, the new school, and change in routine has caused a shift in my son. I am in utter terror as he rushes towards manhood at light speed. I am a single black mother, raising a black son in America, in 2019.
My terror comes from so many things. I don’t know how to raise a man; I have never been a man; I will never be a man. Although I am a strong black woman, I can’t teach my son about manhood.
I can’t help him understand what it means to own and be proud of his masculinity. We speak so much about Black Girl Magic, and I’m here for it! I fear, however, that our boys get lost in the shuffle of us finding what it means to embrace our black womanhood.
I struggle with introducing Black Boy Joy to my son. He doesn’t have many male role models in his life and finding a mentor has been a challenge. We live in the suburbs, and there are not many organizations geared to young black men with single moms. Although I enjoy the lyrical stylings of Big Poppa, I am not trying to have him raise my child.
Having a strong role model is essential for young boys. As a caretaker, it is my duty to protect him from harm or those that present harm to him. There is not much said about the number of black boys that are sexually assaulted at young ages. Young black boys being sexually abused by older women is an open secret in the black community because of the stereotype that black males are hypersexual. This specific stereotype leads to a whole host of emotional and traumatic issues for young black men that is very rarely addressed.
My anxiety, therefore, is through the roof, and I have only skimmed the surface of race. The reason I described my son, in the beginning, is because America has cast him as the mythical “big black male.” He is automatically seen as a threat to everyone, based on his size and his skin color. My son is more likely to get in trouble school; he is more likely to be seen as the aggressor in any situation, he is more likely to be discriminated against or profiled base on his appearance alone. I know this, and sadly he knows this.
We have had “the talk” three different times. One on sex, one on being a black man in the south, and one on how to deal with cops. We have these talks because, we live 45 minutes from Sanford, Florida. The same Sanford, Florida, where Trayvon Martin was murdered. I wake up every day scared of possible situations where my son may encounter a police officer or have a random white person call the cops on him. The irony of all of this is that my dad is a retired Boston police officer. I wish I could teach my son that the police are here to help him, should he need it. However, the reality is that is not always the case.
I often fear that I’m not saying the right thing, or that I’m doing the wrong thing by having these discussions with him about race. I worry that he’ll be emotionally scared, and grow up to be another angry black man. I fear for my son every single day, and all I can think, is I am about to ruin this person before he even reaches adulthood. The reality is, it’s just me working to ensure he has the tools to be a functioning adult. I need him to be ready for anything this world will throw at him. I need him to know how to fight back and survive. Because, my absolute biggest fear about raising a black man, is that I am not strong enough to prepare him for everything he will face, and I that I can’t protect him from this world.
I don’t want my son to be limited by the things I fear, and I don’t want him to grow up terrified of the world or angry because of the injustices that he will face. I want him to be secure in his manhood and to have Black boy Joy, and I want him to be proud of who he is, and to be proud of his roots. I also want him to know that he is healthy, smart, capable and that he is not a stereotype of a black male misunderstood. I want my son to know that when Biggie raps about “ The Sky is the Limit” that’s it’s true, that those are a few words by The Notorious B.I.G that he can be raised on.