It’s Not Safe to be a Black Boy in America…

For this child I prayed; and the Lord hath given me my petition which I asked of him: 1 Samuel 27-28 (KJV)

They don’t lynch black boys in America anymore, at least not like they used to. They let them believe they are proud, worthy, beautiful, and free. And then they kill them.

I’ve endured numerous painful conversations lately with people who love the Lord AND who love me, but who want to believe that things are not the way they are. People who with every good intention need to believe that #BlackLivesMatter is more charged and divisive than relevant, that racism is no longer dangerous, is no longer omnipresent in our lives, that everything in America is okay.

According to Rebecca Carroll, writing at,

Walter Scott’s death – and Trayvon’s, Michael’s, Tamir’s and Eric’s, all of whom became so familiar to us in death that we refer to them by first name only – is the end of the promise of America. It’s the decay of whatever moral infrastructure we have left as a nation; it’s confirmation of the ugly truth that a nation, conceived in slavery and once dedicated to the proposition that not all men are created equal, will allow that divide to long endure.

About one such senseless killing, one of my writer friends penned, “Another unarmed black teen killed by police. #‎OurExterminationContinues.”

From another, this…

I don't need a brutal video, picture, reporter or sympathizer to *finally* verify what I've known to be true my whole damn life. What I need - what WE need is far-reaching, purposeful systemic reforms and continuous, consistent JUSTICE. Where can I see *that* on video??? #‎TooManyNamesToHashtag #‎BlackLivesAlwaysMatteredToMe

#TooManyNamesToHashtag…she’s right, and I’m left wiping my tears and shaking my head.

These are the words of my friends, Black mothers of sons who like me love God and Justice, who bought into the same American dream we were all sold like a Bill of Goods, or a Lot of Slaves (yeah, it hurts like that). Too many names to call out, as the ancestors taught us, keeping them alive as we remember them by name. We call out the names of those beloved and fallen, known and unknown to us, experiencing a searing new hurt representing a centuries-old pain.

I ask God daily, “How long, oh Lord, how long?”

It is not that I have lost my faith but my spirit grows so weary. It’s no longer safe to dream that education, access, affluence, or exposure will be enough to see African-American young men out of the toddler phase and into the grandfathering years and beyond…cradle to grave like we imagined.

Like Hannah in 1 Samuel, we prayed, and God granted our petitions in the form of sons to raise and love. We played by the rules, stumbling but ever intending to do our best and then this…it’s not safe to raise a Black Boy in America.

Harder still is struggling to make friends understand our pain; bridging chasms borne of privilege, guilt, and shame that tell them ignoring or denying race makes it better, or at least more comfortable. What needs erasing is Racism, not race. I do not diminish me so you can feel better; in making your peace you cause me greater pain.

Colorblind means you choose NOT to see me - I deserve to be seen. <<Click to Tweet

My whole life matters; all of it. 

At three, our daughter announced the birth of her baby brother to the world and to our tribe. At sixteen she wept silently at his bedside watching him sleep in heavenly peace on the night the world heard the jury verdict in the murder of Trayvon Martin. It’s not just a mother’s grieving. These are the collected tears and terrors of multiple generations.

All Lives Matter, as they always have. HOWEVER, and I can't let this go, I'm not regularly clutching my heart and my head because law enforcement officers (who are not a horrible, racist monolith and among whom I count dear friends) are killing All boys at an alarming rate. I live in a constant state of unease because Black men (and women, young and old) are being beaten, assaulted, and murdered by policemen at an unprecedented rate. #HandsUpDontShoot is a catchphrase in our home for taking it down a notch, but it's a real thing AND I don't know that it's a real thing in white homes. I say to my son, "I am afraid for your life." It is at those times when I cry out to God.

In Black homes regardless of region and socio-economics occur several iterations of "The Talk" (ask ANY black parent and they'll knowingly smile and nod). To do anything less would be considered irresponsible parenting given the current state of affairs.

Saying something matters does not mean anything at all about anything else.

I do not believe in zero sum reckoning. Nothing is ever wasted in God’s economy, so it is never either/or. Some things, actually many things ARE NOT connected. I don't believe in win/lose for the most part. If I say I'm good, I'm not saying anything at all about whether you or anyone else is good or not and therein lies part of our (Black folks, Black women) frustration. It's not about you (meaning anyone except the Black Girls, or the Black Lives).  It can become frustrating when it feels as though someone is always co-opting your position, like you can't have a say or a perspective without considering everyone/anyone else. The deepest part of me immediately reacts by saying, "stay in your #$@^" lane! This ain't about you, in fact this has nothing to do with you."

Does that make any sense? For me, it's kind of like everyone needing to get a trophy so no one gets hurt. Yes, All Lives Matter. But is that really what you want to say to Trayvon Martin's parents, to Tamir Rice's parents (he was 12), to Eric Garner's wife and family, to the family of Michael Brown, of Walter Scott, of Freddie Gray… and on and on, and on. If you're choking me, guess what, everyone needs to breathe, but I'm the only one about to pass out.

Beyond outrage, what is to be done?

  • We must actively seeking God, and one another.

  • We need to have the hard conversations.

  • We need to listen, not to respond. Frankly, I have NO frame of reference for white privilege, but if my intention is to understanding, and then to action, I must learn, to move beyond my own anger and disappointment.

  • I must learn to listen actively, without bitterness or anger.

  • I must be patient and open to receive as I expect patient understanding from those with whom I dialogue.

My anger, while both righteous and justified, is not enough.

It’s not safe to be a black boy in America. It’s not safe to be a Black Man. But if we want to change the world, and I do, it’s time.  

Chelle  blogs at Treat Me to a Feast about her life lived forward, reviewed backward, through the lens of faith. She’s a PK (Pastor’s Kid), who’s been a Baptist church musician since she was five. Always a dancer and athlete, as an adult she turned to liturgical dance to deepen her personal worship.  It worked. Rochelle laughs a lot, is married to her first love and prom date nearly 20 years ago. Together God gave them two children and a boxer who is the other love of her life, confidante, therapist, and physical trainer.

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