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New Life Lessons for African-American Boys?

Updated on September 18, 2014

There used to be set "talks" parents would have with their sons as they grew up. The dynamic, approach and perspective that these talks are coming from today has a completely different tone. There is a true sense of urgency and desperation for our young African-American men to take heed to our words, and not push them off so they can learn their lessons on their own. In today's society, those lessons can come to late.

My twin boys are 6 years old and while I have always known that their dad and I would have to give talks about how to treat a girl, how to be confident and competitive, how to be kind and giving, how to respect themselves and others and the dreaded "Birds and the Bees" talk. Somehow, however, it escaped me that we may have to teach them how to be a black man in America.

I can wrap my head around everything else but the last one because it absolutely terrifies me to think about. Young men are being killed so senselessly that I just want to wrap them up in a bubble and keep them by my side forever.

What lessons are we supposed to teach so that they survive their young years and make it into old adulthood? Are we supposed to teach them to never wear hoodies? Why? Dammit, it's not cold enough for a hat or coat, but a hoodie is just right. Are we supposed to teach them never to walk in public with their hands in their pockets? Why? Dammit, it's comfortable and not glove cold, but a pocket will due just fine. Are we supposed to teach them to back down when they are challenged by an ignorant somebody? Why? Dammit, it's HIS ignorance, not theirs. Are we supposed to teach them to turn their car radios down to a whisper (when the music is not offensive)? Dammit, why? "Let it Go" is a damn good song!

I hate it and I don't agree with it at all, but these are things I will have to talk to my sons about. They need to be keenly aware of these aspects of today's culture. Ignorance could be a death sentence. They don't have the luxury of just thinking they are Honor Roll students, so who would hurt them? They don't have the luxury of thinking they are unarmed, so who would still hurt them? They don't have the luxury of knowing they come from an educated, caring family, because it won't matter when they are squaring up with an overzealous cop who didn't care enough to look beyond the Jordans, the NorthFace or their beautiful brown skin. These things didn't matter for Trayvon Martin or for Michael Brown or for Oscar Grant or so many others out there, but I NEED for it to matter for my sons. I NEED them to matter for my boyfriend, nephews, brother, father, uncles, frinds and for all of yours too.


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      Alex J 3 years ago from Maryland

      I agree that being as honest as possible as early as possible is the best strategy. I was going to try that "my kids don't see color" concept, but there's no way I can teach that to my boys and be a responsible mother. They need to be prepared for real life.

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      Trish 3 years ago

      Good point. At what age do we start to tell our young men of color life isn't fair -to you. Because your of color you will be treated like a suspect. I guess you have to be as honest as possible as early as possible because at the end the day they have to grow up in world where its shoot first ask questions last.