A few months ago, I wrote a Letter to My Son, a lot of it was about how to be a healthy man, devoid of toxic masculinity, highlighting some of the most important lessons I’ve learned. Today, I write this one to him when he gets older. P.S. You can check my letters to my daughter and black women here.
I love you. If at all possible, I will do my best to make sure you hear this from me daily until the day I die. I love you. As a black man, I never heard it that much from another man. I never felt loved that much. A lot of my growing up was figuring out manhood one day at a time by myself. Beyond just figuring out the man I wanted to be, I had the hardest time adjusting to Blackness.
For years, I never felt attached to Black culture like my friends and neighbors. I heard hip-hop on the radio, watched endless hours of TV, saw black movies, but never really felt connected. I didn’t care for sports, didn’t speak the same way, and still never owned a pair of Jordans in my life. At that age, I felt that was all I needed to be connected Blackness, be like the rest of the kids, but I wasn’t. I loved anime, video games, and comic books. Even the video games I played were different. While my peers played Madden, I played Legend of Zelda.
Eventually, I started to branch out to other cultures. I played all types of sports, met people from different countries, and learned new languages but, for a while I was just running from who I was. I was safe with international students, but I didn’t have a home language, cultural clothes, or even a cool name (until I learned about it recently). I was the foreigner amongst foreigners.
After exploring that part of myself, I decided that I wanted to understand the people I looked like. I played a part in THE GREATEST FRATERNITY IN THE WORLD™ returning to Illinois State’s campus and all of a sudden was popular. I was now normal and no longer different because I automatically had a connection to Black American culture. I could educate people on the history I picked up, but in the process, I learned to love my people, dysfunction and all.
I started to see the nuance in the culture. How popular opinions changed and how we were seen. I started to care about each person’s story and seeing that we all respond to different things in the world differently. Blackness became complicated and I realized my personal experience in it was just another facet. Then Trayvon Martin died.
Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Mike Brown, Rekia Boyd, Oscar Grant, Sean Bell, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, Freddie Gray, John Crawford, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Korryn Gaines, Charleena Lyles, and so many more that look like you, Mommy, or me. I am deathly afraid every time you leave the house that you may not return (in advance). I don’t want to have the conversation about dealing with the police instead of the birds and the bees. (Sidenote: I never had the specific “birds and bees” talk, how do birds and bees metaphor connect to sex?)
I don’t want to forever change your world because you have many more challenging things to focus on. But, I love and cherish you. One day, I must take a piece of your innocence to keep you alive. I have to make the difficult decision of trading your virtue for wisdom to protect the blessing God has for you. You cannot go through this world thinking that Race is simply a made up construct. It is a social construct but it is not imaginary. Race has very real effects and you will face them every single day of your life.
You will get pulled over more than your other peers of any race. You will get paid less, treated worse, expected to prove yourself twice as often. You will be looked at as older than you really are. You will get punished more often to send a message to others that look like you. You will be expected to speak for everyone and if you are liked, you will immediately be seen as an exception. You will cry inside from being silenced. You will cry out for not being understood. You will be frustrated, angry, hurt, saddened, and immobilized by pain from the collective absorption and destruction of us. Yet, there is a silver lining.
You will have people who understand your pain. You will see try joy that washes away the hurt. You will see the ingenuity and creativity that our people possess to birth everything right in the world. You will witness the resiliency and the perseverance that runs in your veins. You will see the beauty in defiance by your existence alone. You will appreciate the sun and the rain because I will teach you how to laugh in both. You will never truly be alone because each one of our ancestors is watching over you, even if one day that includes me. You will know that you are loved no matter what even if the world doesn’t show it.
I don’t do these things because I want to, I do these things because you deserve the best. I promise you on my very first and last breath, I will fight with every fiber in my being to make sure you won’t have to do the same to yours. I will make a better world for you because before anything else, I love you and I’m your father. My sacrifices are for you. I love you.
Turn Your Brightness Up!
Bonus Article: 5 Lies We Should Stop Telling About Black Fatherhood