Black Mom’s Burden.

I am the mother of an intelligent, articulate, talented rambunctious 13-year-old boy.  As a mother my natural expectation, barring any unexpected illness or accidents, is that I will see him grow, get his heart broken, break hearts, learn to drive, graduate high school, go to college, start a career, get married, raise a family, raise children … in short my son should bury me; not vice versa.  An inconvenient truth in these great United States is that as a black mother of a black son there are other things I have to factor in like:

1. Getting him through a public school system that does not instill in him any cultural sense of self and within which I have to do battle to ensure he receives the basic knowledge he needs to survive adulthood.

2. Teaching him the realities of institutionalized racism.

3.  Keeping him out of the back of a cop car.

4. Preparing him  for the reality that he may end up in one any way because he “fit the description.”

5. Keeping him ALIVE in a society where black boys like Trayvon Martin can be murdered simply because he fit the fear based convoluted description in someone’s head.

… and this is the short list.  I have to fight this fight within a society that refuses to acknowledge any of it or either chooses to lay the blame at the feet of the “black community” and its “leaders”, whoever the hell that homogenous group of folks might be; this society that views the election of a black president as a “game over” for racism, all the while ignoring the rise of neo-racism in the form of “ultra conservatism” that has resulted from that election.

One foot in front of the other, one day at a time; I’m am raising a self sufficient, independently thinking black male that can not only be a productive member of society, but who can also be a vital asset to any community he chooses to be a part of. I pull from as many resources as I can to make sure he gets what he needs. I do everything in my power to instill in him a base sense of morality. Damn it, I am doing my part. It is so fucked up and utterly frustrating that I cannot rely on the society within which I live to do its.

No matter how  hard we as black moms of black sons try it seems we’re still behind the eight-ball. It’s the reality of our situation, but it is by no means a reason to sit in victimhood.  We have to continue, along side our men and any others who would chose to be a part of the solution, to engage and empower our boys. We can only hope and pray that one day society will catch on.

During our ride to school chat yesterday I asked my son how he felt about it all. Unfortunately this type of racism did not shock him. What did bother him, and me for that matter, is the rising level of “anger” and threatened violence surrounding the situation.  To use his words, “What is fighting gonna do? If they wanna get angry and do something there are plenty of other things they could do besides fight somebody.” So true.  I cannot begin to fathom life without my son. Today, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin have to.  They have my deepest sympathies.

Rosie.

 

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Get Up. Stand Up.

I just had the best conversation with my son while dropping him off to school. A conversation that I wished someone had had with me when I was a kid.

Rewind:  When I was in about the 4th or 5th grade I had a language arts teacher named Ms. Fiaño. (I will not spare her the dignity of anonimity.) Ms. Fiaño had the old iron sides approach to education; “spare the humiliation spoil the child” was her way.  One day while I was busy being a chatty 4th grader with other chatty 4th graders, Ms. Fiaño decided it was time for someone  to pay the price for disrupting her lesson on dangling participles (or whatever the hell she was teaching that day.) She turned to me and said something like “Stacey, maybe if you could get your mouth shut you wouldn’t have gotten a 56 on the last test.”

Stone silence. All eyes on me.

I was mortified. This would not be the only belittlement I would suffer in her class, and I’m almost 100% sure that I wasn’t the only one but dammit this is my blog and we’re going to talk about me!

The point is her battle axy approach to discipline did nothing but further isolate me from her and any desire to learn what she was teaching. No, I shouldn’t have been talking in her class, but that  didn’t give her license to humiliate me.  Contrary to popular belief, humiliation isn’t always the best teacher. I’ve used the tactic myself in parenting, and now I find myself back peddling trying to convince my son that I don’t think he’s a total idiot. Sigh.  At least I finally got it, right?   Zi, if you’re reading this at some point in the future, I’m sorry.  You rock. Always have. Always will. The world is yours. Go get it!

Fast Forward:  My son has found himself in the position of having to deal with humiliation imposed by educators.  While I plan on dealing with it, because as a parent it’s part of my job to protect him, I also told him what I wish someone had told me.  You have a right to stand up for yourself. It doesn’t require disrespect or confrontation, but it does reinforce in you that you are a person worthy of respect when respect is given.

I think I planted a seed today.   I think.

Rosie.

The Zion Chronicles: The Crooked Smile

It’s been awhile since I’ve written about my boy. This is mainly due to his request for me not to. I believe that children deserved to have their privacy respected unless they’re in a position of potentially being in danger then all bets are off. This has allowed us to begin to foster a relationship of mutual respect ,  a respect that I feel will make for  a better parent/child relationship when he’s no longer of rearing age, and keeps me out of Shady Pines in my golden years…hopefully.  Today, with his permission I write about his triumph.

As those who have followed me through this his first year in middle school can attest, it’s been a rough one for our boy. Below average grades, home work struggles, and a completely insane mother breathing down his neck at every turn.  It’s a wonder he survived. I’m overwhelmingly proud to report that not only did my courageous young man survive…He thrived.

Today he was presented with two awards:

1. A Character award for Perseverance:

“Staying with the task an not giving up”

2. Out Standing Student:

Most Improved-Science (you know…that dammable class he couldn’t wrassle up more than a “D” in?!)

The beauty of it all is the journey he took this year, what he learned about himself, and what  I the doubting faithless mother learned about her very capable son.  The minute I got him the help he needed and let go…the miracle happened. He found his way. He didn’t need or deserve my screaming, cursing, and other bassackwards “parenting” behaviors. He needed the ability to fail on his own and then figure out how to do it on his own with others simply lighting the way.

I also learned that grades often have very little  to do with a child’s progress. My son’s final report card for the year would look like a disappointment in some parents eyes, but for me…well I’ll use this analogy. While I was driving him home from school as he told me about winning the awards. I imagined for a split second his crooked jack-o-latern smile from when he was about 7 years old. Completely imperfect with signs of beautiful growth ahead. Kudos Zion. I love you and am the proudest Mom ever :).

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