My dearest son Andrew,
First, let me say that I am so proud of the young man that you have become. I have watched you grow from a small precocious boy into a charismatic “tech junkie”. Even in a house full of women, you have remained true to yourself as a distinct manly individual. You fought against bullying and won, you conquered an illness that most adults never have and won. I stood in amazement and inspiration at your resilience. As we stand on the edge of the new 2016 year, I felt a deep urge to tell you why I cried this week.
When you were born, I turned from you when the nurse brought you to me. It wasn’t rejection of the long-awaited son that seem to replace the one that I’d lost years previous. It was the rejection of the world’s perception of you. You see, you didn’t look “Black or Hispanic enough” and I cursed myself for listening to my mother’s teachings of “a colorblind world”. I wanted to rail at the future injustices because you would have a hard time because of your fair skin color. It wasn’t until I held you and cried a mother’s tears of joy that I knew that God placed such a unique child in my life. Your father stuck his chest out in pride to have his Mexican heritage show so clearly while I shook my head in thought of the stereotypes that you would have to live down in both the Black and Hispanic cultures. I couldn’t help my thoughts because I was raised in a small town where people saw color first and acted according to those perceptions.
When I took you home, I tried so hard to make sure that you weren’t spoiled and that you were around your father, uncles, and male cousins. I almost breathed a sigh of relief when your skin started to darken and your hair began to curl. I felt that your body was changing so that you would fit in one world instead of being caught between two. Guilt flushed through my body at my own perceptions of “colorblindness”. When your Grandmother Alice died, her last words and thoughts were of you, Andrew, because she worried that you would be taken from me either in prison or death. She taught me to see the world as colorblind, but deep down, she knew that it wouldn’t see you that way. I promised her that I would take care of you and teach you and your sisters all of the wisdom that she taught me. It was a moment of profound reflection because she’d lived through the Civil Rights era and saw how far Black people had come only to be pushed back by a government that was not built by and for Black people.
Knowledge of being a Black woman and mother were not the same as acknowledging the stereotypes that came with it. I’d grown up with the sympathetic, rude, and disgruntled stares from being put in a “typical black kid” box and trying to break out of it daily. I decided then that I would foster you and your sisters’ independence and intelligence. I didn’t care nor did I know that it would make my children more of a target for an unforgiving system against Black children who stood out from their White peers.
This week, I mourned for a child that was not mine. Again. When I heard that no charges would be brought against the officer that killed Tamir Rice, I cried. I cried for a life cut short, I cried for the pain of his mother, and I cried for you, son. You turned fourteen this year, and I watched through newly aware eyes of how policeman and White society looked at you, not as a young boy, but as a grown man. I cried because how can I explain the brutality of a system that views Black children as adults before they are. I cried for a society that blamed a child for his death. You asked me why and all I could do was shake my head. I could form no words that would soothe my soul at the Black lives lost to stereotypes and prejudice. I could form no words to explain why I’ve never allowed you to play with guns outside or purchased them for you. I could form no words to caution you to try to be invisible to the perception of others when I raised you stand out. My voice was silent with oppression like I’ve never known because that child could have been you.