“This book is one of hope, love, and honesty, vulnerability, and fear. It is a book that captures the voices of mothers of black sons that move across race, age, religion, and nationality.”
George Yancy composed these words in the introduction for Our Black Sons Matter: Mothers Talk about Fears, Sorrows, and Hopes by co-editors Maria del Guadalupe Davidson and Susan Hadley (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016). A collection of essays, letters, and poems address the impact of racism on black males and the fears and tears of their mothers.
Warning: These nonfiction narratives of mothers provoked the gamut of emotions in this reader. I, too, am a mother—a white mother who has never had to worry about my daughter’s white skin arousing suspicion in the light of day or in the darkness of night. The rawness of the reality of racism experienced by the mothers and sons overwhelmed my senses. Black mothers, white mothers, and mothers of all colors need to read and reflect upon Our Black Sons Matter.
Working for at time as a therapist in Ohio’s capital exposed me to black families. These mothers knew they had to talk to their younger sons about racism and the risks of being targeted by police because of skin color. With the myriad shootings of black males, there was urgency along with anxiety, fear, and anger from both black mothers and white mothers raising black sons. This conversation could not wait until the teenage days.
I suggested the following picture book: Momma, Did You Hear the News? by Sanya Whittaker Gragg is a self-published paperback for children ages 4-8 years. Gragg is a social worker and school based therapist. You can find it at Amazon.com.
“In the black community, “the talk” with your children isn’t just that of the birds and the bees ― it’s the one where you explain to them how their skin tone may one day make them a police target.” Gragg is a black mother of two black sons and one daughter.
Avery, the main book character, expresses fear after seeing the news on TV about another police shooting of an unarmed black male. His parents talk to him and his older brother about how to respond when approached by a police officer, while emphasizing that not all policemen discriminate on the basis of race and skin color.
The following five-part ALIVE mantra is what to do to practice greater caution when confronted by police.
A – Always use your manners
L – Listen and comply
I – In control of your emotions
V – Visible hands always
E – Explain everything
A Conversation With My Black Son is part of the Op-Doc video series about race relations in America and features parents conversing with sons about police interactions.
The series arrived after the police brutality incidents in Florida, Missouri, and Ohio. Geeta Gandbhir is the editor and filmmaker. Discussions about race with Native Americans, Asian-Americans, Latinos, Black Women, White People, and retired Police Officers are other featured short videos. Visit www.nytimes.com/video/ or www.theconversationseries.org/.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas is a fictional hardcover novel (2017) that made it to the New York Times Bestseller List. The main character is a 16 year-old black female who witnesses a fatal shooting of her childhood best friend by a police officer. Her friend, a black male, was unarmed. A movie deal is in the works. I have not read this book, but the reviews are notable.
According to a 2017 poll from the Public Religion Research Institute, 87 percent of black Americans say black people face a lot of discrimination in the United States while 49 percent of white Americans agreed.
According to the Pew Research Center, 84 percent of blacks say blacks are treated less fairly than whites in dealing with police while 50 percent of whites agreed.
“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”
No one says it like Martin Luther King, Jr.
Melissa Martin, Ph.D. is an author, self-syndicated columnist, educator, and therapist. She resides in Scioto County, Ohio. www.melissamartinchildrensauthor.com.
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