Most of my life I have heard how different it is to parent a son. And all of my life I have heard how hard it is to raise an African-American boy. However, I heard most of the stories from moms who belonged to my chapter of Jack and Jill of America. Jack and Jill is a nearly 100-year-old organization created by African-American mothers who wanted to raise culturally aware children in a society where they are the minority. The moms in my chapter always discussed the difficulties in finding schools that would treat their sons as individuals and not label them or assume that they didn’t have family support. These stories were agonizing and so prevalent in both the private and public school setting for all of these well mannered, and some very well off young men.
But I never wanted to believe that these stereotypes affected all African-American boys. My husband and I raised our now young adult children to be God-fearing, hard working, determined people. However, I knew that my son would be treated differently than my daughter by our society because of the stereotypes seen in all forms of media that people have come to believe.
As our son went off to college this summer, I began to see the harsh reality of what that really meant. We have always been concerned about our son’s whereabouts and we have taught him how to deal with adversity on the local streets of Montclair. Whether he was walking down the street with friends or alone, we taught him the correct way behave and speak with our police officers. However, Montclair, NJ, is a town that is highly sensitized to race relations due to its long history of integration in the town neighborhoods and in the schools. As a result, there is a comfort level for us as parents in this town where police officers aren’t alarmed when they see a group of African-American boys walking throughout our neighborhoods.
But over the last few years, we began to see cases in the media of Trayvon Martin and, this summer, Michael Brown and Ferguson. So the talks about race and an appropriate code of behavior with law enforcement became more frequent. My son is like most boys. He loves to be with his friends, plays lacrosse, ice hockey, and loves to skate board. He is smart, quiet, and is sympathetic to those in need. He loves Chipotle, Chinese food, and video games. He is a normal 18-year-old. But he is also seen as a threat to so many in this country because of the color of his skin.
This summer the images of Ferguson, Missouri, and the death of Michael Brown were on my mind every time my son left the house. I lead a Moms in Prayer Group, serve as a worship team and choir member at my church, and consider myself to be a seeker of The Word. But I felt so vulnerable with the deluge of the awful images from that small Missouri town on my computer screen and TV. It was a battle for me to trust that my son would be safe simply walking down the street, shopping at a store, or driving down a highway. I realize that these fearful thoughts, although they are based on very real concerns, should not be the focus of how I feel about either of my children going into the world.
For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
Is this what it means to really let go of your children as they venture into new places and experience life as young adults?
I can’t stay up late, so I rely on my husband to guard the door at night and wait for my young adult children to get home. This summer, as I just felt these fears so much more acutely, God began teaching me that He is the ultimate protector, and that my prayer life needs to reflect my trust in His guidance. So I am learning that I don’t need to text my son daily to see if he is okay at college. I need to trust the process. Trusting that God is watching, maneuvering, and handling my son’s every need.
I know that my children are considered threatening in this society (for different reasons), but I also know that my God’s Will prevails in their lives. It is difficult for African-American parents.
The struggle is real. But God is greater than all of the societal ills that cause such anxiety, confusion, and hatred. <<Click to Tweet
As my son has settled in at college, I have prayed more purposefully with the knowledge that God’s purpose in my son’s life is greater than any fear I may have. I continue to pray for the families of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, the town of Ferguson, MO, and this country.
Note: This post was written prior to the results of the verdict in the case of Eric Garner.