A Mom’s Letter to Her Black Son

I am sorry that as your mom, I will be putting the burden of “avoiding racism” on you.  Since I cannot fully trust that I can put the burden on society,  I can only comfort myself by telling you that soon, I will be apologizing to your sister for putting the burden of “avoiding rape” on her for the very same reasons.  I am sorry.  It’s not right, and it ought not be so.  I never thought I’d be the mom to ever say “I’m doing this because I love you.”

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I am sorry to tell you that, as your mom, I put this burden on you in the selfish hopes that it will spare me the greatest heartbreak of losing you too young: to death, to violence, to prison.

You know how I tell you that there are some mistakes you simply cannot make, not even once?  I’m sorry that’s the truth for you, but it is not the truth for every seven-year-old boy.

I am sorry that you need to grow up a bit too fast and that you need to behave a bit too well.  I hope someday you’ll be able to forgive us for passing down the burden of avoiding racism.  I am pretty sure that if you’re reading this when you are forty or fifty, when I can finally admit that as I write I’m pouring tears for a mom who just lost her 18-year-old in Missouri; terrified beyond reason that someday I’ll be shedding these tears for you.  I’m sorry that I am begging you to “toe the line” to spare us that pain.

Yet, know that I know that you can’t do this alone.  Though you bear it, it’s not your burden to bear.  You cannot bear the burden of racism alone.  So very many have tried.  You need us to do our part, and as jaded as you feel at times, I’m sorry to ask you to continue to trust those around you to do the right thing, and to do right by you.

Remember that the world is made of people who are mostly good.  Too many of us make those mistakes one time that we can never take back, and so the lives of others are forever altered.  Yet, even in the face of people’s mistakes, find their goodness.  Please trust that it’s in there; and know that you need them.  It’s too easy to give up on each other when we’re hurt, but don’t.  Please don’t.

Mind your manners.  Follow the rules.  Play fairly.  Keep your hands and feet to yourself.  Don’t ever touch a knife, a gun, or even a lighter.  Demonstrate respect.  Don’t talk back.  Wear your dress clothes to school.  Let a bit of anxiety keep you honest.  Yet, risk opening your heart.  Though it may be broken again and again, please risk it.  Find goodness in everyone.  Feel joy, sink into the moment you have.  Practice gratitude.  And together, let us pray that you have infinitely more moments to be grateful for.

3 thoughts on “A Mom’s Letter to Her Black Son

  1. Beautifully written, as always. This piece is sad, yet hopeful. Your son is so fortunate to have such compassionate and wise guiding forces in his life. All the best to him in his journey and hugs to both his moms.


  2. Oh, we are all so scared about the millions of things that can go wrong when our children go out into the world. It’s amazing we can breathe during the work day. I know just what you mean, but yes, you have more dangers about which to worry, and I’m just so sorry that is the case.


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