Fear. Fear is defined as “an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.” I describe fear as an absence of faith when things become overwhelming or out of control. My biggest fear is that I will mess up raising a black child in America. I’m sure that there is a reasonable amount of fear that every mother has for their child, but when this beautiful, melanin-rich child is placed into your arms, the fear of every black mother who has ever lost their child seems to form inside your heart, and from that moment on, fear lives inside of you.
So, what makes a black mother’s fear different?
There is this stigma that my black child is going to either be a victim of the prison system or a product of the sports system. There doesn’t seem to be an in-between.
My child cannot just be great at whatever. The brown children I raise, as great as he or she is, will never be seen as an equal to their peer who is of a different racial background because of the color of their skin. If they misbehave, then they are future criminals. If they enjoy playing sports, they belong to the NFL or NBA. If they are extremely intelligent, they are an exception. They are not the exception but a huge populous of our culture, but the overlooked part of our population because they don’t fit into the box that society has set for them. How do I, as a parent, fight against society and what society will try to characterize them as?
FINDING A BALANCE
When choosing a method of discipline, I feel like that was the hardest ongoing battle of my life. I was surrounded by other brown kids who received physical discipline and it was seen as the norm. Me personally, I was not raised with physical discipline, but I knew I was the exception to the rule.
See, generally speaking, black families feel “To spare the rod, is to spoil the child”. A biblical quote that we use to justify physical discipline on our children. Well nowhere in the Bible does it state that this rod is a physical rod, just a form of discipline. What I have seen is that black parents must parent in a harsher sense than other parents because life is harsher to black children. So, to prepare them for what life will bring, tough love is given from an early age, instead of just love. Being black, you must be “better than, stronger than, smarter than”, just to be equal to; so, in that same sense, our discipline must be” harder than, stronger than, better than” to prepare them for a future being. Being unequally, equal.
TOO BLACK VS. NOT BLACK ENOUGH
I look at my son who has no rhythm, knows hardly any hip-hop songs, uses phrases as “the-post” (instead of mail) and I wonder, will he be accepted as “Black Enough”?
I mean really, what is “black enough”?
I’m still trying to figure that out, but I know that it is a mix between being able to feel comfortable in the “hood”, understand urban dialect, and possess a certain type of swag that the black culture has. As of now, my son does not fit the bill.
I have been at birthday parties and while everyone is doing “Whip & Nae- Nae”, he is looking around completely confused because when he is in the car with me, we listen to country music most of the time! I wonder if in my trying to protect him from certain aspects of his culture if I am hiding him from his culture?
On the other hand, my daughter, she just has it! I look at her, and I see the culture in the curl of her hair, the shape of her hips, and the dance in her spirit. She is unapologetically black, without being the stigma of being black. She has that balance. She is also one and has no knowledge of the complexities life will carry for her.
THE TYPE OF FEAR
When I send my husband, or my son, or my daughter out the door, there is always a fear that I will never see them again. I fear that they will be targeted because of their skin.
I fear that my husband will get pulled over and will not make it out of the traffic stop. I fear that one day my child will be another hashtag or news story and that they will dehumanize them and use every tactic to take away from the fact that he or she was my child. I fear letting my children into this world because the world fears my black child.
So, next time you see a black mom, and it seems like she lingers a little longer when she drops her kids at school, gives tighter hugs, even spoils a little much, know that it’s probably her way of fighting the fear that sits inside of her every moment she is away from that child she is raising.