Opinions from a Black Son

by Just Juan

“I don’t worry too much about you because I know you’ll be OK” – Dad

On yesterday, a Facebook friend of mine shared an article that literally had me seething. Some chick named Krishann Briscoe penned an article called “I’m Grateful That I Did Not Have A Black Son” and it was complete and utter bull$#!+…and those are the nicest words I can use to describe it.

In the article regarding the prospect of having a Black son, Briscoe writes that she “can’t imagine holding [her] breath each night until he walks in the door” or “[she] couldn’t imagine sending him off into a world that holds little to no regard for his life” or “[she] couldn’t imagine teaching him things like don’t make eye contact with a police officer or to avoid wearing hoodies or walking around in white neighborhoods”. I take great offense to those words along with her direct assertion that she is thankful to God that He didn’t give her a son, insinuating that the American justice system was designed to deliver justice upon Black sons rather than for Black sons. She makes the allusion that raising a Black daughter is infinitely better and that raising a Black son—and more importantly, being a Black son—is some kind of curse or black mark.

GTFOH!! As a Black son, I can very adamantly say that raising a Black son in this day and age is no different than raising a Black daughter: it’s completely dependent upon the teachings of the parents and the child’s receptiveness to those teachings. From where I stand—and hopefully I’ll get the chance to actually experience this one day—a parent can teach a child to not only live great but to be a productive and decent citizen of society just as much as a parent can teach a child to be a menace to society or a purveyor of less than honest principles. The all-important caveat to this that almost everybody seems to ignore is that it’s the child’s decision to accept or reject the teachings of their parents and the application thereof. After all, it is the child that ultimately lives and leads their life, right?

I’ve written about my mother and father on this blog. Both of them have taught me a lot about life. They have significantly influenced where I’m am in life at 30 based largely on their teachings when I was much younger. For those that know me, know how hard I work in all aspects of life, how I conduct myself, they know much of that is traced back to my parents and the way they raised me…a Black son. I grew up in Birmingham and I split time living with both parents. I lived in the slums of Birmingham’s government housing communities, where a large percentage of the city’s poor Black population resided, and in an incredibly better community, where ¾ of my neighbors were White. You think my parents worried about me being profiled or judged every time I walked out of the door in Birmingham? In other places I’ve lived in America like Wichita Falls, Texas or Valdosta, Georgia or Columbus, Ohio or Los Angeles or the Charles County, Maryland suburbs of Washington, DC or even here, in the Opelika-Auburn area? You think they held their breath every night waiting until I made it home from the Linn-Henley Research Library or from Domino’s Pizza? You think they had concerns about what could happen to me if I made any kind of contact with a police officer? You think my parents told me to avoid walking or driving in the more affluent and White neighborhoods in the area like Hoover or Homewood or Vestavia Hills? The truth of the matter is that my parents never really had those concerns about me. When I came of age to be able to venture out on my own—in Birmingham and in other points nationally—I’m absolutely sure my parents were confident in the young man they raised up. Equally, as a Black son, I took to heart a lot of the teachings of my parents to be a better citizen not so much as a method of navigating life as a Black son.

Look, I get it. Black Americans are very sensitive about the Trayvon Martin thing or the Mike Brown thing…essentially 2 Black sons who met unfortunate fates. In the last few months, I’ve seen so much online—and in passing conversation—about how bad it is to be a young (or relatively young) Black male in the United States. Everybody is on their heels, thinking that we—the young Black sons—will all of a sudden become extinct from the wild. I don’t see it that way. I’m of the belief that the way that you conduct yourself largely dictates what happens to you. I’ve been pulled over by the police 5 times in my life and with the exception of a confrontation I had with a particularly power-hungry senior airman Security Forces gate guard at Moody Air Force Base, those interactions have been uneventful. I showed respect to those officers and they extended the same respect to me…we all got through the business at hand and moved on with our lives. I’ve taken drives in mostly White neighborhoods and in exclusively White neighborhoods in this country…and I’ve never once felt like I was playing Russian roulette with my life. Friends, colleagues, classmates, and acquaintances have invited me to dinners, game nights, and watch parties at their homes or their parents’ homes in communities, neighborhoods, and cities that were significantly different from the places I grew up and I never once felt that I didn’t belong…nor was I made to feel marginalized because I was a young Black male. I respected all of my hosts and the rules of their homes and communities and they extended respect to me. I didn’t have to walk through separate doors or use separate bathrooms. I’ve been on runs through affluent neighborhoods…including the one I live in now. I’ve never had the police called on me for looking suspicious or for being Black in these neighborhoods. In fact, when I went on vacation a few months back and interrupted my morning running schedule, one of the neighborhood residents stopped me upon my return to ask was everything OK because she hadn’t seen me run by for 2 weeks.

I can’t really speak for what happened in the Trayvon Martin or Mike Brown situations. There was a court trial on the Martin stuff last year and the suburban St. Louis district attorney released the documents pertinent to the Mike Brown incident. I don’t really know what the normal interactions with police were with those 2 young Black men. I don’t know how they conducted themselves in general and what role that played in their deaths, if it played a role at all. All I know is that I am largely in control of how I conduct myself in the situations Briscoe alluded to in her article…and how I conduct myself is largely influenced by how my parents taught me to conduct myself in general as a human being not so much as a Black male in a country with a checkered past concerning Black men. I’m somebody’s Black son and I don’t live in fear of just living…and neither do my parents regarding my life.

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