I tried not to follow the trial but I would have had to be living under a rock not to hear about the outcome. All I kept thinking is ‘What the fuck?!” I am glad that people are making a big deal out of all these situations: Trayvon, Renisha, Marissa, Jordan, and all the other names that don’t always make the papers (The Root has a post dedicated to sharing some of the stories of Black unarmed men who have been murdered). So I was on the bus recently and I saw this little Black boy talking with his mother. He had these big, bright eyes and he spoke well and with confidence. I could tell he was a smart kid and I looked at him and thought about what he might be when he grows up and then I thought about Jordan Davis and Trayvon Martin. My smile dropped and my heart started pounding imagining the other future that may be waiting for him. And I found my hopes and thoughts of him as a President, a surgeon, a lawyer, or an entrepreneur replaced by the hopes that he lives to see his 25th birthday, that he never gets arrested, or that he never has to swallow his dignity to survive. That little boy’s face haunted me all day. I thought about what I would say to him if he were my son. Then the thought came to me that he is my son. Every little Black boy I meet is my son and I should care for their well being and future as such. So I wrote this letter…
To All My Sons:
I wish that I could raise you as a child, but the fear, the spite, and lovelessness of this world will not wait. I will protect your innocence for as long as I can but I must prepare for a life without my love. I do this selfishly for my own peace of mind and I hope you forgive me for it and, maybe, one day thank me for it. So, little Black man I speak to you as a man in the making.
This world has lost its heart and it’s mind has followed. So instead of logic you’ll find ignorance; instead of compassion you’ll find cynicism; instead of acceptance you will find adversity; instead of love you will find pain. Look at the faces of your fathers. Notice that tightness in the jaw from hidden clenched teeth. Look at the foggy glaze in their eyes from having seen dreams torn pieces. Listen the aching in their hearts from having known too much heartbreak. But look also to the strength of their stride as it never loses its bounce. Look to the courage of their hands mahogany brown and tough like the base of a tree. They have narrowly survived America…but they have survived it. In that lies your hope. That knowing that you can survive it. Look to the faces of your brothers. Faces not unlike your own: shining with hope and an eagerness to engage the world. In their faces lies your motivation. That knowing that while this world is full of sorrow and joy, yours and your brothers presence in it will make all the difference. There is and can be so much more to this world. Some of it you will find, but a lot of it you will have to create.
Our existence in this country is an issue for us and our countrymen. This country has never loved us and that’s not our fault. It would seem that we are enemies locked in battle and that one should, inevitably, destroy the other. That won’t happen — not for lack of trying, mind you. It won’t happen because we are bound to each other through blood and history. You have a place here in this country of your birth. You belong here as much as anyone, if not more (except ofcourse for the Native Americans on whose land we all live). The issue of your existence in America is not your belonging, nor is it your equality — these things are only questioned by those who fear the loss of their privilege by your ascension. The issue is what will be your place in this world. That has as much to do with you as it does with the systems that govern this country.
You were born innocently and without your own permission. Birthed into whatever social class and economic status fate dictated. That in itself will feel like an affront to your manhood. And as a Black man it will only get worse. Unfortunately America has not considered your place in it. It is unsure of what you are and where you belong. It is afraid of not knowing what you are and where you belong. But that is why you must be completely certain.
You are a Black man. Seek inward first for the definition of what that means. There is something inside every Black ma that knows exactly what it means to be a Black man. The instincts and urges that are inside tell you how to be a Black man. That is how we become men even when our father’s are absent. Something inside knows. Study your own instincts. Face your own urges. Be well acquainted with your darkness as much as your light. Then reconcile to love every last piece of what you find. What you hate, change it. What you value, share it. What you love, cultivate it. What weakens you, protect it. Do that first and do it soon. Learn to know and love yourself before you let the world in.
Then look back to your fathers and around you at your brothers and acknowledge the place that has been allotted to you in this world. The world has its own ideas about who you are and where you belong in this world. More often than not it has decided that you are dangerous, inferior, barbaric, and helpless. More often than not the place it has prepared for you is in mediocrity. But I submit to you that even if that is where you find yourself — at any time in your life — no one can hold you there. At best the world can convince you that you belong there and that belief becomes the shackles that keeps you there. But you must never believe that you are meant for anything less than greatness.
Greatness is in your heritage. You are capable of almost anything (in this life you will surely find things that you simply cannot do, but attempt them as if you have no idea that you might fail). Do this because it’s who we all are. I could spend hours naming the Black men before you who have attempted to do what ‘could not be done’ and succeeded, but you will find their stories and learn their names. Just know that they are you and you are them because because their blood courses through your veins. You are your fathers’ son.
You are a man and a man does not allow another man to define him or tell him who he is. A man does this for himself and meets other men on equal ground. On that ground is where a man demands his respect and forces the world to deal with him as he is. That is how you make room for yourself and begin to decide for yourself who you are, what you will be, and where you will go.
You have as much potential as any other, though it will be much more opposition to its manifestation. It’s okay if that bothers or angers you, because it’s not right. But don’t let it ever stop you. The future needs your contribution, however big or small. Your sons need to see and know you even if only in legacy. You are the key to our evolution. You are your sons’ father.
Know, remember, and speak your history so that you never forget who you are. Honor and love our people so that they never long for the love and validation of others. Cherish and support our women so that always find comfort in our arms. Be present with and within our children so that they seek and revere our guidance. This world responds to the force of action. Knot that the greatest force of action any man can possess is love: love of himself, love of his people, love of humanity, and the love of justice.
We have not survived the holocaust of slavery, the inhumanity of Jim Crow, and the trauma if disenfranchisement by being common.We have survived it because we are different. We are Black people. We are Black men. We know the power and strength of love. We were clothed in a skin destined to be loved by the sun and it is our natural blessing that the greatest star would love our flesh enough to bronze it. Never feel shame for that. Love your brown skin. Love your Blackness. That is how we have survived horrors like nothing any other people has experienced: because we are loving people and love is built to endure. And so we have endured. But now is the time that our endurance becomes perseverance and perseverance evolves into victory. We have brought you this far and we will take you as far as we can, but your turn will come. I pray you take yours much further than we are able to bring you. I love you little Black man. My living is for your survival; my life is for your destiny. Your living is for our hope; your life is for our destiny.
I’m not sayin; I’m just sayin,
An Angry Black Man
*For more information about the stories of the young men whose pictures are used in this post click here.