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My Son Will Never Be Alton Sterling

My son will never be Alton Sterling, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice or Philando Castile. My son will not know what it is like to have people think he is subhuman and not worthy of living because of the color of his skin. It is highly unlikely that he will be wrongly accused of a crime because he “fit the description." I will not have to hold him while wailing in the streets because he was murdered or shot in the back or has had his neck broken, simply because he is black.

He will not be lynched; he will not be dragged behind a car; he will not be just another dead black boy, thrown away like trash. He will have white privilege, but he is the son of a half-black woman, so he will know what white privilege means. He will know he benefits from his white genes and he will know he doesn’t have to be afraid of dying in a routine traffic stop, but he will know his history. He will know from whom he is descended.

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I am hoping and praying that America will be a different place by the time he begins to understand the social construct of race. I am hoping and praying that the terrible things happening to black people now will be just another stain on our nation’s history. I am hoping and praying that he will be shocked and appalled at what blacks in America went through, the same way I was moved to tears as a little girl when I learned about slavery, the Civil Rights Movement and how Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.

I never want him to wonder how a society could place so little value on black lives, on the lives of people he loves—his grandfather, his aunt, his uncle, his cousins.

I’m hoping and praying that when he is a young man, he will be fascinated and astounded by what America was like when I was a child. I hope he wants to know what it was like for me to grow up half black in a country that demonizes and fears black people. I’m hoping to see sadness and disbelief on his face when I tell my stories. I want him to feel sorry that his mama had to grow up in such unenlightened times. I want him to be totally perplexed about the murders of his ancestors for no reason at all, beyond the hatred and terror that has been reaped and sowed into our soil since the first children of Africa placed their chained feet on the shores of the New World.

I am hoping and praying that there will be no reason for him to cry when he watches the news because black people will no longer be executed in the streets or in prisons or in the back of police cars. I never want him to wonder how a society could place so little value on black lives, on the lives of people he loves—his grandfather, his aunt, his uncle, his cousins. I never want him to worry that his loved ones might become victims as they make their way through the world with their brown skin. I never want him to feel rage and disgust at the apathy of a nation.

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I keep thinking about how I want a better world for him, but it’s not enough to want it.

Our streets are running with blood, so I don’t know how change is going to come when America is so steeped in violence and racism. My heart breaks for all of the victims of gun violence, homophobia, racism and greed. It breaks for Ferguson, for Flint, for Orlando, for Dallas. It breaks for our entire nation and it breaks for my son, because in spite of all my hopes and prayers for him, I am not hopeful. We are looking at a dark age ahead, but for him, for my beautiful boy, I want light and love and for the dark to be in the past.

I’m putting out a call to mothers and fathers of all races: Teach your children to love and be kind, we have to stop this cycle or we will be left with nothing. We must have critical uncomfortable conversations about race and white privilege. We need to unpack all of the history that has been piled on top of us, burying us beneath the sins of our forefathers.

It will be painful—the truth often is—but we must do it.

We have to be the change we want to see in the world, because the alternative is things will go on as they have for hundreds of years. More blood will be spilled, more innocent people will die and we will only become more divided. Our children—black, brown, yellow, tan and white—deserve a beautiful world, and we must be the ones to provide it.

It’s in our hands now. Let us lift America up and out of the darkness, together.

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Photograph by: Rebekah Henderson

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