8There’s a conversation on the table. It’s about race. Actually, maybe we’ve been a little too polite in recent times. Maybe it’s time, we really say what is on our minds. Maybe we just tell the truth.
My oldest son (who is 9), from time to time, will make mention of how happy he is that we don’t live back in the times of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Mostly because he wouldn’t be able to have the wide array of friends he currently holds so dear. He says he can’t imagine not being able to play with all of his friends, who are not only Black. For now, he believes he’s the same, but different. What do I tell him? What do I tell his younger brother? What do I tell my boys?
Do I subtly mention that while things are not like they used to be, they still aren’t equal? Do I tell them, that while they reside in the safety of the protected and open environment, that his dad and I keep them in, that on the other side of it is a reality of race that I wish they didn’t have to know? Do I tell them that when they are teenagers, and their white friends are engaging in normal teenage mischief, that they should refrain because they are Black, and people will assume they are up to no good? Do I tell them not to wear hoodies or any other attire that might make others uncomfortable? Will it matter? They can’t change their skin. What do I tell my boys?
Do I wait, say nothing and hope that they understand, at some point, that all people are not yet created equal; and so they should always be on guard? Do I believe that, because they are being raised in the suburbs and attend an independent school, that their life will somehow be different than the brown boys who grow up in urban areas? Or, do I tell them everything? Do I come clean about the truths of this world and the potential of what they might face as brown boys in the United States? What do I tell my boys?
The race conversation is deep and it’s tentacles spread wide. It’s about Black and White. It’s about Asian and Latino. It’s about light and dark. It’s about blond and brunette. It’s about kinky hair and straight hair. It’s about culture and experience. It’s about fear and lack of understanding. It’s about assumptions and labels. It’s about the Land of Make Believe and the Land of Authenticity and Truth. It’s about truth and lies. What do I tell my boys?
I think I’ll tell my boys that they are fearfully and wonderfully made. I will tell them that many people live in fear of what they don’t understand and that, despite their kind and giving spirits, that some may not understand them. I will tell them that they should continue to make choices that align with who they are inside. I will tell them, at some point, that although we adults are working on it, unfortunately, the color of someone’s skin still matters. I will ensure that they continue to know that they are the deciders of their own future, no matter what suggestions may be made about what their future should be. I will tell them to look to the example of their father to guide them through some of life’s more treacherous patches as young Black men. I will tell them to pray and to seek wisdom. I will tell them how special their parents know they are. I will tell them that character, not color, should be the basis of judgment.
I think I will tell my boys that there are all types of characters that come in all kinds of colors. I will tell them of the Black, Asian, Asian Pacific, Latino and White friends that stood with me in my tougher times of life. I will tell them of my own realizations about color, it’s impact on me and how I moved forward from that moment. Their dad will do the same.
Come to think of it, I will just tell my boys the truth.
Monica Cost is the Founder of Evidently Assured, brand strategy firm and the Live Your Truth Experience (L.Y.T.E.). She is the Author of the new life changing book on living an authentic life called, “The Things I Used to do to Sneeze!: How to live an authentic life with awesome sensations.” Email her at: [email protected]. Follow her via Twitter: @monicacost and Facebook.com/monicahairstoncost. www.monicacost.com.