Parenting While Black: Why I Am Afraid to Let My 13-Year-Old Son Grow Up
Earlier this month news of another unarmed Black man getting killed for being Black hit the headlines. However, this time it was a 17-year-old Black boy named Elijah Al-Amin, who had his throat slit by a White man who claims he felt threatened by the music Al-Amin was listening to. What happened to Elijah Al-Amin, Jordan Davis, and countless other Black youth, particularly Black boys, is why I am afraid to let my 13-year-old son grow up.
Research shows that Black children are presumed to be older and physically larger when compared to their White counterparts of the same age. With that presumption comes the assumption that Black children are more dangerous than their White counterparts and therefore Black children do not get treated with the same kid-gloves that White children are often treated with. Black children face racism in a myriad of ways, from outright racist verbal and physical attacks, to disparate school discipline rates of Black children and the school-to-prison pipeline, to the harsher punishments and longer jail and prison sentences Black youth receive in the criminal justice system, Black youth are constantly under attack.
As the mother of a beautiful 13-year-old Black son whose heart is filled with Black boy joy and huge plans for his future, I am terrified to let him grow up. I am afraid that the world will see him and immediately mark him as bigger and stronger as an excuse to instantly criminalize him based on his appearance. I am afraid that once he is out of my sight, I will no longer be able to protect him from the situations and dangers that face Black boys and men every time they walk out of the door. I am afraid that he will be confronted by a racist civilian or a racist cop and his life will be taken and all I will have left will be memories and thoughts of what could have and should have been. Simply put, I am afraid to lose my baby.
Though I often find myself overcome with fear, deep inside I know that eventually I will have to let go and allow him to grow up and go out on his own in order for him to grow in to his manhood and learn how to navigate the world without me keeping watch or holding constant guard over him. As former First Lady Michelle Obama recently said in regards to motherhood, “Try as we might, there’s only so much we can control. And boy have I tried — especially at first. As mothers, we just don’t want anything or anyone to hurt our babies. But life has other plans. Bruised knees, bumpy roads and broken hearts are part of the deal.” I just pray that for my baby, bruised knees and a broken heart is all the pain this world inflicts on him.