Happy Birthday sweet 16th Lee!
I am so proud of you. You have accomplished so much in your short 16 years on this Earth.
I hope I have not failed you by teaching you skin color doesn’t matter. I fear I’ve been naive and I haven’t prepared you for this current racial chaos. Skin color does matter, and I struggle with feeding you the narrative that it doesn’t.
Who would’ve ever predicted 16 years ago that today we’d still be living in a racially charged climate ? I’m sorry you’ll have to work so hard to prove your intelligence and worth–perhaps even your humanity– because of the brown skin that houses your intellect and heart. We’ve tried to equip you with tools for success, regardless of race. But we’ve also coached you on society’s unwritten rules for black men. What you should and shouldn’t wear, how to show respect, how to conduct yourselves with dignity, and how to speak properly and confidently.
People will judge you based on these elements, and it could mean the difference between life and death for you.
I’ve never pretended that racism doesn’t exist. I’ve felt its sting. I know humiliation. We all have prejudices. It’s part of our humanness. But know this: You can’t allow the actions of a few to color your view of the whole world.
You’ve faced discrimination in your own family so you know you’re not immune to it. The devastating stories we’ve seen in the media could’ve just as easily been about you, and your name could have become a hashtag to remind us of some horrible incident.
As your mother, I’m compelled to help you make sense of this craziness.In spite of what you see or hear, all white people aren’t “the enemy.” Don’t let anyone convince you they are. It’s simply not true. Know history, but don’t let it cripple you. A victim mentality will limit you economically and emotionally.
I wish I could return you to the womb, to warmth and safety. But I can’t. This has to be your experience. Your story to tell. Make no mistake about where I stand. First, you’re responsible for yourselves, your family. Second, you’re bound by the rules of society and law. I know you’ll respect that. I’ve raised you to be a man of character and integrity.
Most police officers want to help you. Be wise and remember what we’ve taught you. If the police pull you over, respect them. They deserve it. Comply with their wishes and pray it will be ok. If it doesn’t, I hope I’ve armed you with the tools to fight ignorance with grace.
Live without fear, but be aware of your surroundings.Even though you’ve heard this all before, I can’t risk leaving a stone unturned. You are too precious to me.
This is a low period in our country. This is not America at its best. But we still believe this is the best place in the world for you. As you transition become an adult, be beacons of hope & examples of what is best about America by treating everyone–regardless of race, social stature, or religious affiliation–with respect, compassion, and dignity.
I believe you will benefit by choosing content over skin color and love over hate. I couldn’t be prouder of the man you’re becoming. Allow others to see the fullness of America by being the best you can be.
Live strong, be safe.
Love you forever and always!