I will never forget the day I went to the doctor for my first ultrasound, already knowing with certainty that my unborn baby was a girl. The moment the doctor told me it was a boy I told her she was wrong and to check again. With proof of a male baby in my hands, I drove home and I prayed, “God please help me, I do not know how I’m going to raise a black boy in America.”
When my son started becoming obsessed with nerf guns I started having “the talk” with him. When he was in the third grade, we started talking about why he was always “getting in trouble” and not getting the help he needed from teachers, though they claimed they were doing it. A year ago we started discussing the importance of following directions exactly (I pressed him on this years before but I never explained why.) This has been our reality. Don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t all been this dark but the fact that this has been woven into the fabric of our everyday lives bothers me.
One night as my friend and I, and our kids walked into Centro at 7:15 at night, in the dark in Mexico, we didn’t have a care in the world. I wasn’t concerned about any of those things. My son wasn’t on guard. There was laughter in the air and joy in the kid’s hearts. We don’t have those conversations anymore. Yes, people do look at him (and me, for that matter) here but it’s different. It’s with a kindness; they are curious and they will talk to him. I don’t have the feeling that he’s being targeted or misunderstood. When he walks around with his hoodie on we are free of stigmas. I love giving my son the opportunity to live free; to define who he is and not have it defined for him. I love the ease I feel without thinking about all of that every single day; whether he’s in school, playing outside or walking into a store.
I bet you’ve felt this too. You’ve wondered how to raise your child(ren) without all of that defining them. You’re willing to do whatever to give them the best opportunity possible and you search for it day after day, wondering how to do it.
Sometimes I sit and think about going back to the States and I can’t fathom how. I’m not just saying that like a flippant, “I don’t know how I’d go back to the States”. I mean that in the deepest way. Since we’ve been here the school shooting in Florida has occurred, kids are getting punished for protesting gun laws, and more. I just wonder why is this ok? In what world is this acceptable? Not in mine.
It’s a touchy thing to talk about wanting to leave the states, especially for the mental and physical health of your black child because, hey, the U.S. is the greatest country on earth. That’s what they teach us, right? But when I have to explain to my son why I don’t want him taking toy guns outside or in the car and he questions me so much on the ridiculousness of the request that I finally tell the story of Tamir Rice. In response my son paused and asked, “Is that real? Did that really happen?” I just struggle to go ahead blindly thinking the U.S. is the place for us. I know I’m not the only person of color with these wonderings.
In the meantime, I enjoy our life, our experience and stay present. I embrace this opportunity for my son to experience a different truth and for me to sit in a place of relief. I’m not sure what’s next but I know what’s now.