A review of the new book by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me.
A review of the new book by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me.
When Jennifer Rivers, mother of slain victim Tavin, 19, lost her son over a pair of red, Chuck Taylor sneakers no one protested. Her son was just another victim of black-on-black crime.
In a recent LA Times article titled: “A mother asks why some black lives don’t matter to other blacks,” this question is asked by the grieving Rivers, who can’t understand why black lives have little value to other blacks. A question that any grieving mother would ask after losing a child to such a senseless crime.
Where is the public outcry, the protests, and condemnation, in support of the innocent lives lost daily in cities all across America? Don’t their lives matter too? Let’s be real: black-on-black crime is a serious issue we also need to address on a mass scale. Sure, we can argue that eliminating police brutality has greater priority, but we can’t ignore the statistics that homicide is the leading cause of death among young, black males, at the hands of another black male.
Recently, I read a very disturbing CNN article on the increase in suicides among Black boys. What? That can’t be — but, it’s true! Sadly, the suicide rates among black boys has now surpassed their White counterparts.
As a mother of 3 sons, I was deeply moved by this article for several reasons, and wondered how would I cope if one of my sons lost the desire to live and took his own life. I can’t imagine what would drive a young, boy to the brink of hopelessness that he no longer desires to live!
Researchers, who conducted the study, were just as surprised in seeing the dramatic increase among Black boys, since suicide rates have historically been higher in White boys. The study revealed that Black boys chose to take their own lives by hanging or suffocation.
Is this a wake up call? Are Black boys losing hope and see no future for themselves? Better yet, what future are we, as adults, giving to our boys? Yeah, sure there could be a number of reasons why a young, boy would choose to take his own life. Researchers suggest that one reason is that Black children have more exposure to violence and aggression than Whites. But, are we, as adults, adding fuel to the fire by not providing them with a safe haven or positive outlets for self-expression?
Children aren’t immune to society’s issues of racial inequality, poverty, violence, food injustice, and bigotry — they can sense when something is wrong! They may not understand the full context of things happening in their surrounding; all they know is that they feel scared.
No child should feel alone and hopeless, without anyone to talk to. Sadly, mental illness treatment has long been a stigma in the Black community. But, isn’t saving our sons lives more important!
Toya Graham, the mom who was videotaped slapping her son, during the recent Baltimore riot wasn’t having it. Since her son didn’t have enough sense to make the right decision, she made the decision for him: take your behind home!
I applaud Toya for not allowing her son to get caught up in the disturbance, which could have resulted in his arrest; changing his life forever! Way to go Toya!
If more parents took the responsibility for raising their children, then we wouldn’t have to continue asking the question: What’s wrong with Black youth? And, you didn’t hear that from me!
Earlier this week, Aaron Hernandez, former tight end for the New England Patriots, was sentenced to life in prison, without the possibility of parole.
His sentencing should serve as a lesson for all young, black men that there is a price to pay for living the thug life.
Aaron had a promising career and a 40 million dollar contract, but the temptations of the streets had more attraction. What he needed was a circle of friends, who weren’t afraid to say “Man, take your ass home!”
Our sons are vulnerable to those same temptations in society waiting to devour them. We should educate them to the reality that a criminal path leads to prison — one stupid mistake could change their lives forever!
Peer pressure plays a big part in the decisions that our sons make. But, we should constantly teach our sons to be leaders and not followers.
Every son lost to prison represents another mother with a broken heart!
Today, the issues that impact Black youth: crime, drugs, police brutality, lack of jobs, limited access to quality healthcare and education are the norm and take center stage in the news. I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of hearing the same depressing news — never anything positive!
If Black boys deserve a future, and they do, then it’s time to hit the damn reset button and bring about a new change!
The issues I mentioned earlier shouldn’t be the norm to define the future life for our sons — they deserve better. Our sons should be hopeful and excited about their future, dreaming of one day becoming a doctor, scientist, professor, teacher, or CEO of a company. Notice that I didn’t say dreaming of one day becoming a rapper, or athlete? Not that there’s anything wrong with these professions. But, they shouldn’t serve as a carrot dangling before our sons, as if they can’t aspire to be anything else.
God doesn’t change the condition of a people until they themselves change!
Often, my writing has an in-your-face tone and style. I’m not apologizing — my writing is a reflection of who I am, and my upbringing. I grew up in the housing projects of Washington, DC, during the 60’s. I lived through the riots and civil unrest. I saw first-hand how the lack of employment and educational opportunities created hopelessness and despair. Thus, creating an environment filled with crime and drugs.
When I became a mother of 3 sons, I not only feared that my sons wouldn’t have access to opportunities for success, but I feared for their safety. Unless you’re raising a black boy in America, you can’t understand that fear. I’d like to share that fear that I felt, day after day. Below is an essay I had written, but was unable to get published. It expresses my fear, as a Black mother raising sons. Sadly, the essay may never get published beyond this blog; editorial guidelines sometimes determine whether your voice is heard or not.
If we don’t tell our own stories, and lift up our voices, then who will speak for us and give the world a glimpse into the Black experience in America:
A Mother’s Fear
Long before Trayvon Martin’s hoodie represented fear and intimidation; long before Eric Garner lay sprawled on the concrete, and gasped “I Can’t Breathe;” long before a chalk line traced Michael Brown’s bloody body in Ferguson; and, long before Tamir Rice lost his life while playing with a toy gun, I feared for my own sons’ safety.
My fear, much like other Black mothers’ raising sons, didn’t just surface today. It’s the same fear shared by Black mothers raising sons from earlier generations. This fear, birthed from historical accounts of murdered black boys (Emmitt Till, Virgil Ware and Johnny Robinson), all early symbols of overzealous police and others, is branded into our subconscious minds. The heightened media coverage of recent incidents has given society at-large a glimpse into the persistent and hard-to-shake fear that Black mothers raising sons have always felt.
On any urban street across the nation, black mothers cry out in pain, while holding the lifeless bodies of their sons, who have become victims of yet another senseless crime. When each of my sons was born, I made a commitment to do all within my power to protect them. This commitment included loving them, guiding, and finally helping them to navigate amidst negative influences in society. To whoever could hear, or would listen, I made my message loud and clear: “You Can’t Have My Sons!” I was prepared to go down fighting, or die trying.
By far, raising Black boys in an urban area intensifies the fear – raising three sons increased my fear three-fold. The anxiety of raising my boys in several Philadelphia inner-city neighborhoods, strife with crime, violence, and drugs was enormous. With danger lurking on every corner, I was well aware that raising my sons in this environment meant that there were influences in my community, and in society waiting to devour them like sacrificial lambs.
The moment one of them walked out the door, I began to worry. Even a trip to the neighborhood corner store could result in one or more of my sons becoming a victim of a drive-by shooting. Likewise, even their daily walk to school made them vulnerable to the advances of neighborhood drug dealers. And although my husband and I had raised our sons to have intelligence, good morals, respect for women, and themselves, I just wasn’t sure if this was enough to protect them. In my heart, I was always, always afraid for them.
I fought hard to suppress the fear and pretended that I wasn’t worried, by telling myself “He’ll be ok.” After all, we raised him and his brothers’ right. Still, deep down inside I didn’t really believe those words. Prayers silently recited: “Oh God, protect my son and return him safely” gave comfort. Without faith in those prayers, I would have surely, slowly succumbed to that nagging anxiety of waiting for my sons to come home.
As much as I longed to keep my sons protected from society’s ills – this was impossible. Knowing that I couldn’t watch them 24/7, I could only advise them to always do the right thing; a principle they could apply to every aspect of their lives.
Once my boys became teenagers, I tried to prepare them for what they might encounter as they left home, by having “The Talk” –those words of wisdom on what to do if stopped by the police: show respect, keep your hands on the steering wheel, and most importantly don’t provoke – the goal is to leave the situation alive.
Still, the uneasiness when darkness fell, and my sons hadn’t returned home, gave rise to anxiety, then fear. This fear, as it arose was much like a pot of slowly boiling water. Beginning as a thought, then growing to acute terror, the closer darkness overtook the day.
Telling myself that ‘No news is good news’ helped with my anxiety, of not hearing from one of my sons, for several hours. Yet, when the phone rang, I prayed that bad news wasn’t waiting on the other end of the phone, upon answering it — feeling relief when it was only a family member or friend calling to see how I was doing.
The moment all of my sons arrived home safely, I sighed, thankful that God had protected them another day. Although they arrived home safely that day, didn’t mean the fear had ended. It had just ended for that particular day.
Trayvon Martin’s death seemed to mark the beginning of open season on young, Black men, in America. As such, I anticipated hearing the news of another mother losing a son. Today, my heart aches for all the mothers that have lost sons. The sad truth — the fear of losing a son is something we black mothers know — better than any other mother.
“Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.” — Malcolm X
Black males are in crisis! Today, many are asking the question: “How do we save and uplift young, Black men?” Many believe that the answer to that question is education.
Historically, Black males have lagged behind their counterparts, in educational achievement. Far too many lose interest in education, and end up not graduating from high school — this cycle must end! But, what’s the solution?
BLACK LIVES MATTER, the fifth edition of the Schott 50 State Report on Public Education and Black Males addresses disparities in education, and provides a national, overview of the state of Black and Latino male students.
In order for Black boys to grow into responsible, young men, they must have the necessary knowledge and guidance, which helps in their development.
Children aren’t raised in a vacuum — they must be taught values (respect, honesty, integrity, acceptance of others, etc.) and principles that help them to make the best decisions, as they grow into young adults. If we leave their development to chance, hoping that they’ll just turn out okay, then we shouldn’t expect much.
Raising sons demands direct involvement from parents, particularly mothers; since she is the first teacher. She builds the foundation upon which her son will stand and grow into a young, Black man. If she teaches him nothing, then it’s only a matter of time before we see what he’s been taught. And, by that time it may just be too late!
Panelists included: Tiffany Burney-Foy, Ed.S (single, teenage mother of four now Assistant Principal in the Atlanta Public Schools); Dainhen Butler (CEO, Fun Time Moon Walks and radio host); Geoffrey Ingram (co-founder of iCreate Leadership Development Initiative, Inc.); Wilford Y. Smith, Jr., MPA (First Vice Chair of the Douglas County Democratic Party and retired Senior Corrections Officer with the New Jersey Department of Corrections); S. Candee Whitfield (Licensed Professional Counselor); and Benjamin Downs (Social Worker, Langston Hughes High School).
During the discussion, it was evident that there was a generation gap with the definition of the term “thug.” The question to ask is: Why are we trying to redefine a term, which represents individuals, whose actions have no positive impact on the advancement of the Black community?
One thing that the entire audience could agree on is that a change in the self-destructive behavior and mentality, of young, Black men is needed. I’m still promoting the idea that raising thugless sons begins with the teaching and educating of Black boys, at an early age.
The conversation has begun — time will tell whether the conversations will help bring about change!