My son, the names change (often) but the way you are viewed (in this society) will not. Every day that you get dressed, you unknowingly put on an invisible shirt that tells others what they should think of you. You are not like any of the things written on your invisible shirt, but you will be portrayed this way to justify your ill-treatment.
There have been many teenage boys your age or slightly older who had hopes and dreams just as you do only to have those dreams taken away from them in the most violent way possible.
Travon Martin, 17
Antwon Rose Jr., 17
Michael Brown, 18
LaQuan McDonald, 17
Tamir Rice, 12
Quintonio LeGrier, 19
Jordan Edwards, 15
Their mothers have cried rivers of tears wishing that society would view their sons just as they view them: Loving, caring, and worthy. You see, some of these young men made some choices that weren’t always the right choices, the only difference between them and their white counterparts were that they weren’t given a second chance. They were always found guilty no matter the circumstance. They never received the benefit of the doubt.
Unfortunately son, you are seen as a threat. Your black skin has label you a troublemaker, dangerous, and suspicious. It doesn’t matter that both of your parents are college educated, that you live in a safe neighborhood, that you are articulate, or that you make good grades. Your blackness will precede all of those things. This society wasn’t built to keep you safe. It wasn’t built to help you succeed.
For these reasons, your father and I must perform a balancing act of letting you figure things out on your own and keeping you safe. There are just things you cannot do as a young black man. We don’t allow you to take out the trash at night, I know it seems strange to you, but we can’t take the chance that someone will mistake you for a prowler. We don’t allow you to walk around with your hoodie on. We have to make sure that if anyone is talking to you, you are able to hear so that you don’t seem threatening. We teach you to use your words, but don’t be a smart alec. We can’t take the chance that someone might think you’re being disrespectful and find themselves feeling unsafe. Those “Stand Your Ground” laws are not boundaries we want to push.
I want you to know son, that you are the best thing that has ever happened to your father and I. Like any first time parents we were anxious to meet you. We wanted to know what you’d look like, whose personality you’d inherit. We had (and we still do) high hopes for your future. We know you to be a smart, kind, helpful (at times), and loving big brother to your siblings. You are gifted in computer science, and anything technological. While we as your parents know this, it’s safe to say that if you are ever stopped by a police officer, they won’t care to know who you are.
Here’s what I want you to know if you are ever stopped by a police officer:
Keep your hands visible at all times
Don’t say ANYTHING
Obey their instructions
Don’t do anything stupid. We want you to make it home to your family if you are ever detained by police. You may not be treated kindly, but you are still a great person. You are loved by so many people. WE know who you are. You, my love, are a son of God, made in HIS image. This world won’t always love you, hold your head high, it never loved your ancestors either.