When I found out I was pregnant with my first child, I knew it had to be a girl. I knew everything about girls! In addition to growing up with all sisters, I have a ton of girl cousins and nieces. So I was ready to introduce another little girl into the family. My husband has three sisters; he is the only boy, so I knew the odds were in my favor for a cute baby girl, and I had already picked out her name.
Then, on that fateful day, as I hopped online as soon as I knew my gender results were in, I found out I was having a boy. A black boy. I knew nothing about boys, absolutely nothing at all, but that wasn’t the part that scared me. Amid every black male I’ve seen murdered unjustly, I was bringing another one into this world. This world that was already against him even before he was born.
It’s taken me a while to respond to the events around me. At first, I thought I was numb or desensitized. Then it hit me, although I have seen this happen time and time again: I was trying to protect my mental state by not looking in, not reading the headlines, watching the videos, or reading the social posts. I knew I would inevitably get pulled in, and that’s exactly what happened. Then the feelings of hopelessness and sadness started to set in, and I was an emotional mess.
That’s how I was feeling one morning, while in the car, taking my sweet little 3-year-old boy to summer camp.
Each time this happens, when a black person is unjustly murdered, I make this same verse my prayer that is now etched in my heart and memory simply because it happens too often:
“LORD, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, LORD. Renew them in our day, in our time, make them known; in wrath remember mercy.” – Habakkuk 3:2
As I write this with tears in my eyes, I want you to know; this is a message for all mothers. There are many of us that fear for our black sons, and we pray for their safety. Sometimes, we lay awake at night or have nightmares about what could happen to them.
When I discovered I was pregnant with my second boy, I often wondered why God saw it to bless me with two boys. They make me laugh, cry, and experience a love that I never knew existed inside of me. Their smiles are infectious, and they love me so tenderly, and I daily thank God for blessing me to be their mama. They bring me so much joy.
However, even within that joy, there are still insurmountable thoughts and the worry of what their future holds. You see, everyone loves cute little black boys, just as they love all little boys. Then the time comes when they are no longer cute and little, and all of a sudden, they are a threat, by merely existing. When I look into these little joy-filled eyes, sometimes it breaks my heart when I think about the future, and that joy leaving their face.
My three-year-old Deuce loves to do things on his own. When he accomplishes a task, he puts up his muscle arms and says, “I can do anything!” I broke down the other day thinking of when I have to look into those sweet eyes and tell him, “no son, you cant.”
My one-year-old RG is playful and feisty. At night when I am praying over him, I pray and ask God that He would use his zeal for the glory of His kingdom as he grows, and sometimes for just a moment, a feeling of fear sets in, that his zeal may be seen as too much and that his spirit will be broken to keep him safe.
One day, Deuce came home playing air guns with his hands saying that he was “getting the bad guys.” I panicked and went to the school the next day, furious at them. At the time, he was attending a fancy, pricey preschool where he is one of a small few black boys. I asked them where he learned it. His teacher casually said the boys were playing making guns with legos; she didn’t see a problem with it. She wasn’t a mother of black boys. She didn’t understand the fear, the thoughts raging in my mind of other little black boys who had been killed for playing with toy guns.
Deuce has wanted nerf guns – he sees older boys in our neighborhood with them and wants to play. In my need to protect him, I don’t feel comfortable allowing it.
These feelings are not new. Mothers of black boys have felt them for over 400 years. As I was driving this morning and feeling overwhelmed by this monumental task of raising black boys in a world that seemed so against them, feelings of helplessness and hopelessness took over. Then, as I exhaled, God made it abundantly clear why He chose me and why He chose each of us.
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6
He knows that though the task is enormous and sometimes feels too hard, He is with us, walking beside us, holding us up when the world is tearing us down, so that we may raise these boys in His image. He has called us by name, mama, to do an overwhelming task, a scary task, and that is to raise these little black boys, and to show them the love that they may not experience from everyone in this world, but to give them a mothers love, and that they would know what Christ’s love looks like.
“Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord” Psalm 31:24
Your burden is heavy, mama, and it is not something that other mothers necessarily have to carry, but remember: our God is with us.
“Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart; and you will find rest. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:25-30
For those who do not carry this burden:
Here is a little bit about me. I’m the daughter of a father who was a police officer in a significant high crime city for over 35 years. I have five uncles who are all in law enforcement, or the military. My husband is a Veteran. He is also a Doctor. When he leaves work every day I ask him to text me when he is on his way home, this is when the clock starts, I time precisely how much time it should take him to get home if he is not here within 10 minutes of that time, I call him because I worry that something may have happened. Whether getting pulled over or potentially being the victim of a hate crime, those are my worries when my husband is running late.
Here is a photo of our family with several of our other family friends. Each mother in this photo has one or more black sons that she cares about as deeply as you care about yours. Each one has a husband that they love fiercely and who is the backbone of their family. Each one is a follower of Jesus. Each one has the same fears I’ve shared above.
I have had friends ask what they can do—I’ve seen tons of lists floating around social media with tons of things you can do. You can start there, or with one of these that I’ve listed below. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but my focus is sharing things that moms with young children can do, because your children like ours are not only the future. Together, our children eradicate oppression.
1. Pray. Pray for black families and black children. We are all hurting right now, and we are all exhausted. Secondly, pray for yourself. Ask God to reveal any bias or prejudice you may have, even if unintentional. Ask that the Lord give you a heart of racial reconciliation.
SEEK TO UNDERSTAND
2. Read this article to prepare your heart for talking to your children about race. This is an old article, but in my opinion, still one of the absolute most impactful and informative ones for non-people of color. It is from a neuroscience study that was done over several years of children’s perception of race. It goes into depth as to why it starts with YOU and dispels the “I don’t see color” philosophy that has had a negative impact on society.
3. Talk to your children about race and prejudice. After you read the above article, get resources if you need them, and have hard discussions. Please don’t let this be just one “talk” because of heightened awareness at the moment, but commit to ongoing discussions in your home.
4. Be advocates for black children. If you see someone is mistreating them or treating them differently, say something. Help to protect them. If you are the only parent around and observe them being victims of overly aggressive law enforcement, store owners calling the cops on them, or in some instances, even teachers or coaches treating them differently, advocate for them. Speak up for them, be a part of their village so that the oppressor knows no one in their community will tolerate this treatment.