Today, while out shopping at the mall, my son asked me, “Mama, why do White people treat me like that? Why do they act like they are afraid of me? I held the door for that older White couple to pass through and they ignored me and went through the other door.”
I didn’t have an answer. I don’t have an answer good enough that will numb the pain of so many of us who have suffered hundreds of years of oppression and discrimination. I’ve witnessed these slights first-hand that have been levied upon my son.
My son has been taught well. He can be so very hard-headed, but he is very respectful to adults; he opens doors, he allows females to pass through door ahead of him and does all those things a young, well-brought-up man is supposed to do. A few of his teachers have commented on how well-mannered he is. Always ready to help out in class, always holds doors, always says please and thank you.
We were out and about one day and I witnessed one older White lady, or maybe it was an older White man, allowed a door to slam in my son’s face. My son was coming up behind the man to hold the door for me as I passed through and the person simply allowed the door to slam in my son’s face!
Once on an elevator, the White people on the elevator with us looked at my son as if he were about to murder them. He was simply riding the elevator. No visible weapons. He wasn’t talking loud or cursing. He wasn’t even making eye contact with them. His pants weren't sagging. I, on some level, couldn’t understand their reaction, but on another level…
When my son was younger and less than five feet tall with bright, sparkling eyes, a beautiful, wide smile and long, curling eyelashes that would make Elizabeth Taylor jealous and a respectful manner, he was considered such a “cute little boy” to everyone – even to White people.
Now at more than six feet tall, with bright, sparkling eyes, a beautiful, wide smile, long curling eyelashes and a respectful manner, he is a perceived threat – a menace to society, a born suspect. I tried to prepare him for this day but how do you really prepare someone to be discriminated against?
His dreadlocks, I know, don’t really help the situation but so many Black dreadlocked, educated professional men tell the same story. How do I protect him? How do I make the hurt go away? I can’t kiss this boo-boo away. How do I prevent him from hating those who are teaching hate? How do I prevent him from being prejudiced against those who practice prejudice against him?
We often ask ourselves why young Black men are so angry. The socially conscious rapper, Chuck D, along with Public Enemy which included a comical but socially conscious Flava Fav back then (who is now just comical), rapped back in the 80s in the song, “Can’t Truss It.” One line in the song goes, “the hater taught hate and that’s why we gang bang it”.
I spoke with a friend of mine, Brother Bob Arrington, who hosts the gospel radio show "Joy in the Morning" on WRSV Soul 92 in Rocky Mount, NC, recently about this very subject. Brother Bob said that a Black man's first example of a man in this country taught him to be violent through his own violence, ie beatings, whippings, castrations, lynchings and etc. The anger of Black men has been indoctrinated in them through slavery and passed down through the generations.
Perhaps this is an explanation. But it aint’ right. It just ain’t right.