I’m at a loss.
When I was younger I looked around and identified as best I could with those of my peers who were African-American. Young men with the same hopes and dreams and ideas and plans as me. While I squandered so many opportunities I knew and was proven correct to think that all I had to do was buckle down and get started to eventually reach a place in life where I could truly be my own man.
It was hard, but it was often only hard due to my own decisions, my own inaction. I couldn’t really relate to what it was that had to be overcome by young men with darker skin than mine.
I see it more clearly now.
I have kids and I know what it feels like to see that baby and fall in love on sight, to hold that baby and raise them up and celebrate their accomplishments all the way from rolling over to walking, to making friends, and navigating school. Mine are still young and the rest is projection. From where I stand I can project quite a ways. My kids are bright and kind and loving. One is more competitive and the other is more contemplative.
It’s fun to think about the many directions they might go. It’s scary to think of the pitfalls that could befall them. I worry about things like injury and accidents. I will worry about prescription drugs and driving while intoxicated. From time to time I’ll even fear a school shooting, a thing so unlikely as to be nearly impossible, but so terrifying as to be hard to remove from my dad mind as the far more likely and pedestrian ways they might encounter tragedy.
What I don’t have to worry about is the thing I now can understand so much better than I ever could have as a younger person.
I’m reading and listening to my friends, people I grew up with, people terrified for their sons because they are what the world views differently than my sons will ever be viewed.
Their kids are young and black. Young black men, looked on suspiciously every day when they greet the world. These young men, whose natural qualities are being ignored and replaced with violent fantasies that are being applied to them by the biases and prejudices that live in the minds of the people they are merely next to.
I know this is not universal.
I know it is also more prevalent than most white people see.
It’s hard to see a reality that is so far removed from your experience. But for the mothers and fathers of young black men it’s impossible not to see the threat to their precious child’s life that exists in the hardest of places to address: the minds of others.
I don’t know what I can do.
I’m sad and angry and frustrated in equal measures. I don’t know how to change things. What I know is I want you to know that I see it.
I am terrified of this part of the world.
I’m sickened by the fear and anger the world seems to feel toward your precious children.
And I see it.
Photo: Getty Images
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