From The Heart of a Black Mother

24 years ago I arrived home to my small, one bedroom apartment with an 8lbs. 4 1/2 oz. 20in. long beautiful baby boy  Having skipped the ultrasound that would have revealed the baby’s sex (I wanted to be surprised) it was at the moment of his birth that I was overcome with JOY – a healthy baby and TERROR – a BLACK, male child in America!  Just how strong did God think I was? 

He grew strong and healthy surrounded by unconditional love.  I parented wide awake and intentionally, knowing that each moment we experienced would become a memory for him.  He thrived. While I taught him to play “patty cake”, I was preparing for the day I’d have to  tell him that the world feared his greatness and strength and would come at him with a full frontal attack to destroy him, physically, emotionally and spiritually.  I wondered how much easier it must be white  for white mothers(raising white sons)…they could just let their little boys pretend to be caped superheros and one day dream of being President (he was born in 1985 BEFORE we sat in the Oval Office and I didn’t even dream that for him.) 

It’s not enough for Black mothers (or other mothers raising Black sons, but that’s a discussion for another day) raising Black sons to teach them their ABCs, how to say the magic words, “please” and “thank you”.  Black sons have to be taught how to maintain their dignity and self-worth when the world around them takes every opportunity to dehumanize them.  It’s not enough to teach them to say grace before a meal or their prayers before bed.  Black sons must be taught the strategies for staying alive WHEN (that’s right WHEN not IF) they are stopped by the police for driving, walking, breathing….

My Black son has grown to be a well rounded, loved and lovable young man.  He was a scholar-athlete (emphasis was ALWAYS on the scholar part in our house) in high school.  He graduated from college and is gainfully employed.  He pays his taxes, goes to church on Sunday and loves his Mama….

And a couple of weeks ago while exiting his job (in suit and tie), getting into his car, he was followed and stopped by a white police officer.  There was no speeding, no expired tags, no broken tail lights or illegal turns.  As a matter of fact the officer was in the parking lot when my son left his job and got into his car WITH A KEY!

The JOY and TERROR combo showed up again when he called me to tell me about it moments after it occured.  JOY – he was alive and on his way home after an encounter with a police officer and TERROR – at the thought of how it could’ve gone.

Maybe that’s why Black mothers raising Black sons, pray with such passion and consistency.  We know from the time they leave the safety of our wombs that we can no longer protect them.  We know that no matter how well we raise them, how wonderful they are as human beings, they will become feared and hunted. 

All I had to give him when he called angry and frustrated was my love.  Black mothers, you better make sure you have enough to give your Black sons when they call.

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One Response to “From The Heart of a Black Mother”

  1. Carmen Says:

    Dearest La Rhonda, thank you for letting us read what has been on your heart. As the mother of a black 2-year-old son, I have recognized that “please and thank you” are not enough for my son’s home curriculum. I have already recognized that I must teach him how to keep his “righteous mind” (Great Debaters) and I am moved to tears thinking about the huge job that I have before me. I hope that I can be as fully present in the rearing of my son as you were (and are still) with yours.

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