There are some things I need to teach you that you cannot learn from school but may be the most important lesson of your life. It’s a history lesson. A part of our country’s past that grabbed your present and gripped your future before you were born. Instead of sitting by idly and watching it defeat you, I wrote to you instead, hoping to put an end to it before it destroys you.When you go to school today, and likely in an effort to make students feel comfortable, you’ll probably hear your teacher ask the class, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” In response, and likely to tell the teacher what he or she may want to hear, most students will probably list such things as doctor, lawyer, fire fighter and police officer. But do not be afraid to say something different, despite the honor in the careers listed above. Because in our country, even those honorable careers contributed to the very downward spiral that prompted this letter.
America is wrapped in a coil of suffocating hatred that forces everyone to get involved, despite their desire to or not. In fact, you became involved the moment you sat excitedly in the car on the way to your first day of school. Because of your involuntary captivity, instead of memorizing the song Ring Around the Rosie, that a square has four sides or the fact that red and yellow make orange, remember instead the color Black.
Black is what you were labeled when you entered this world. This color is what ties you to history in a way I cannot afford to shelter you from. This color is the reason you cannot walk to school with the neighborhood kids, even though you will want to so badly. It is best you understand this now before you get older and grow to despise me for it.
Throughout America’s history, many tried to ignore the struggles and complications associated with the color Black, and I’m writing this to you in hopes that Black won’t hurt me the way it hurt mothers of other young men that began just like you. Even though you didn’t exist yet, I thought about ways to prevent the damage to both of us and wrote this letter as it poured from my conscience and a heavy heart.
I’m not the only one that felt moved to take action during these times of regression and racial angst in our country. In places like Florida, Illinois, Missouri, New York and Washington D.C. to name a few, cries for help from injustice became a deafening roar. Yes, people had cameras and recording devices and even captured some of what I’m trying to protect you from, but that was not enough. Blurry videos and muffled recordings proved that not even the technology Americans cling to for everything could provide them the very thing they needed. During these times, a dark truth about American society arose from the ashes of many Black boys, who are connected to you in ways that cannot be undone.
When body cameras and legislation could have been enforced to change your future, our country sensationalized instead the negatives of such new technology and the financial cost of a $75 million proposal. An unwillingness to invest in cameras that cost between $100 and $1,000 lead to a greater cost for Americans: innocent lives. Even though some cities like Dallas showed that misconduct of police officers could decrease with body cameras, our nation chose to avoid accountability.
It was not the first time in history that different agendas were prioritized because of a perceived hassle to our country. America turned its head to ignore the truth because it was uncomfortable and complicated. Almost as uncomfortable and complicated as the lives of minorities have been in America. Nearly as uncomfortable and challenging as giving this letter to you is.
It is essential that you understand all of this on your first day entering this society as an active citizen before it’s too late. Before you feel the color Black in school or at the park, I knew you needed to learn a part of its journey. Yes, the journey began long before you and even me, but it’s just as much a part of us as it is a part of those who came and struggled before us.
This history sends a constant reminder to minorities living in a America that it can steal your innocence and rob you of the freedom to live life unsullied. You must remember this letter when you observe the liberty that some of your friends have. You need to remember this letter about our country’s past when you question the rights and wrongs of this society. Remember this lesson before you remember anything else today. My hope is that it will protect you in ways our history could not.
A future mother in America
(featured image credit: Elizabeth Shafiroff, Reuters)