How to raise a black son in America | Clint Smith

Growing up, I didn't always understand why my parents made mefollow the rules that they did.

Like, why did I reallyhave to mow the lawn? Why was homework really that important? Why couldn't I put jelly beansin my oatmeal? My childhood was aboundwith questions like this.

Normal things about being a kidand realizing that sometimes, it was best to listen to my parentseven when I didn't exactly understand why.

And it's not that they didn't wantme to think critically.

Their parenting always soughtto reconcile the tension between having my siblings and Iunderstand the realities of the world, while ensuring that we never acceptedthe status quo as inevitable.

I came to realize that this,in and of itself, was a very purposeful form of education.

One of my favorite educators,Brazilian author and scholar Paulo Freire, speaks quite explicitlyabout the need for education to be used as a tool for criticalawakening and shared humanity.

In his most famous book,"Pedagogy of the Oppressed," he states, "No one can beauthentically human while he prevents others from being so.

" I've been thinking a lot about thislately, this idea of humanity, and specifically, who in this worldis afforded the privilege of being perceived as fully human.

Over the course ofthe past several months, the world has watchedas unarmed black men, and women, have had their lives takenat the hands of police and vigilante.

These events and all thathas transpired after them have brought me back to my own childhood and the decisions that my parents madeabout raising a black boy in America that growing up, I didn't alwaysunderstand in the way that I do now.

I think of how hard it must have been,how profoundly unfair it must have felt for them to feel like they hadto strip away parts of my childhood just so that I could come home at night.

For example, I think of how one night, when I was around 12 years old, on anovernight field trip to another city, my friends and I bought Super Soakers and turned the hotel parking lotinto our own water-filled battle zone.

We hid behind cars, running through the darkness thatlay between the streetlights, boundless laughter ubiquitousacross the pavement.

But within 10 minutes, my father came outside,grabbed me by my forearm and led me into our roomwith an unfamiliar grip.

Before I could say anything, tell him how foolish he hadmade me look in front of my friends, he derided me for being so naive.

Looked me in the eye,fear consuming his face, and said, "Son, I'm sorry, but you can't act the sameas your white friends.

You can't pretend to shoot guns.

You can't run around in the dark.

You can't hide behind anythingother than your own teeth.

" I know now how scared he must have been, how easily I could have falleninto the empty of the night, that some man would mistake this water for a good reason to washall of this away.

These are the sorts of messages I've beeninundated with my entire life: Always keep your hands where theycan see them, don't move too quickly, take off your hood when the sun goes down.

My parents raised me and my siblingsin an armor of advice, an ocean of alarm bells so someonewouldn't steal the breath from our lungs, so that they wouldn't makea memory of this skin.

So that we could be kids,not casket or concrete.

And it's not because they thought itwould make us better than anyone else it's simply because they wantedto keep us alive.

All of my black friends were raisedwith the same message, the talk, given to uswhen we became old enough to be mistaken for a nail readyto be hammered to the ground, when people made our melaninsynonymous with something to be feared.

But what does it do to a child to grow up knowing that youcannot simply be a child? That the whims of adolescenceare too dangerous for your breath, that you cannot simply be curious, that you are not afforded the luxuryof making a mistake, that someone's implicit bias might be the reason you don'twake up in the morning.

But this cannot be what defines us.

Because we have parentswho raised us to understand that our bodies weren't meantfor the backside of a bullet, but for flying kites and jumping rope,and laughing until our stomachs burst.

We had teachers who taught ushow to raise our hands in class, and not just to signal surrender, and that the only thing we should give up is the idea that wearen't worthy of this world.

So when we say that black lives matter,it's not because others don't, it's simply because we must affirm that weare worthy of existing without fear, when so many things tell us we are not.

I want to live in a world where my son will not be presumed guiltythe moment he is born, where a toy in his hand isn't mistakenfor anything other than a toy.

And I refuse to accept that we can'tbuild this world into something new, some place where a child's name doesn't have to be writtenon a t-shirt, or a tombstone, where the value of someone's life isn't determined by anything otherthan the fact that they had lungs, a place where every singleone of us can breathe.

Thank you.

(Applause).

Source: Youtube