Protect all of our sons

latanya-buckLaTanya N. Buck, director, Center for Diversity and Inclusion

My deepest fear is not that I am inadequate nor is it that I am powerful beyond measure.

My deepest fear is that I have been blessed with the greatest gift of life … a jet-black gem, passed through my womb, for whom I am responsible for polishing.  I fear that I will buff his callous and curious edges so much that it strips his unique and natural essence down to concrete camouflage for sake of survival.

Unnoticed.  Trampled.  Invisible.

But how do I prepare a jewel of five years for a lifetime of society that is not prepared for him? How do I allow a boy to be just that – in his most authentic state – when I am forced to articulate and reason adult male content in a childlike manner?

He doesn’t understand teachers’ implicit bias and inability to relate to him in preschool.  Yet, he experiences their punishment and questions his skin when he isn’t afforded the benefit of the doubt and is timed out like every other black boy in class.

The chalk is on the board … he cannot see or read it. He doesn’t know the impact of his blackness, darkness and maleness, and when packaged and sold together what it means for navigating life in invisible shackles.

He must tread lightly. He is not aware that he is a threat as a child and will be viewed a man well before he is one. I have to tell him … at some point.

My fear is that my black boy will be stripped of his youthful innocence as our boys are. It is not an irrational fear. It is truth. He and I will not remain in our eternal place of picture books, trucks and Transformers. Rather, he will be transformed by the ways of the world and learn that others’ perceptions will be his reality.

I hold on for dear life to his wide-eyed curiosity, imagination, brilliance, sweet spirit and his belief that “all people should love everybody.”  Idealists say they should. But, I tell my son differently.

My fear is that I deflate my black boy’s utopia-filled balloon when I deliver the news that everyone will not love or even like him. He does not understand.  But I know the truth.

To be born black, boy, and just be is all it takes. Whistling.  Walking.  Waiting.  Emmett. Oscar. Amadou. Trayvon. Michael.

I fear the confusion that his young mind will encounter when his hero morphs into the villain the broader and taller he grows.

My deepest fear is that no matter how much I train, prepare or polish my black boy gem into a man stone, I have no control over the minds, hearts, thoughts, fears and actions of others.

How can a beautiful and God-given gift be the cause of much angst to no fault of his own? I ask the Creator for peace, strength and protection over my boy and all of our communal sons.

Read article in St. Louis American.