SOME THOUGHTS OF A BLACK FATHER DURING THIS TRYING TIME

To write about Trayvon Martin is hard for me, because my heart is broken for him, his family, and for our society.

I write today from the perspective of my role and privilege as the father of an African-American male teenager, who will be leaving for college in the fall. The senseless murder of Trayvon Martin serves as a cruel and cutting reminder of a Black father’s potential vulnerability and helplessness, as I open my arms and hands to let my man-child fly.

It angers me that white fathers are not burdened with the specific worry or responsibility to educate their young men on the subject of how to act, what to look out for, and indeed how to survive in certain situations because of their race. I am not angry because I wish something bad upon their young men; we just should not have to prepare our sons in this way!

I have taught, warned, and pleaded with my son to follow the rules of the survival “talk” that I gave him a couple of years ago when he turned 16. I have prayed daily and will continue to pray even harder now for his protection from nonsensical actions such as the murder of Trayvon, predicated on the racial profiling of the African-American male in this country.

So I repeatedly have asked myself, what can an African-American male and father do to protect his son from the prejudice of profiling and the bigotry of many, who will never take the time to get to know the intelligent, witty, and fun-loving young men that are our sons. One answer is that we must educate, educate, educate, on all levels, and with all types of people, since so much of people’s fears and bias stem from their ignorance.

With that being said, I have a few thoughts about what we as African-American fathers can do, or continue to do, to educate. I understand the complexity of these issues and by no means am I suggesting that these 5 recommendations are some type of magical elixir that will make racism and the profiling of our young men go away. I also know that some of this is going to sound like “the talk.” Yet, this type of education is however one place out of many where we can all start.

1. Do every thing you can to educate our children about the existence of subjective and discriminatory perceptions surrounding their appearance, demeanor, and language, with an emphasis on how these perceptions sometimes become heightened in some environments (e.g. predominately White communities, affluent communities, and those communities and police departments with reputations for racial intolerance, etc.).

2. Do your part to educate our children about actions and behaviors that can hopefully de-escalate encounters with law enforcement or strangers (e.g. appropriate and truthful answers and responses to questions, keeping one’s hands visible at all times during an encounter with the police, turn the interior lights on inside the car when stopped by police at night, do as you are told-I will fix it later-as opposed to having a funeral), and with strangers, do not allow them to get too close, run, scream, make noise, and use some basic self-defense strategies.

3. Explain to your child that despite the advances of African-Americans socially, economically, and politically, we do not live in a post-racial society. It is a wonderful goal with lots of terrific people trying to get us there, and others with bad agendas for trying to make us believe that we are there. Unfortunately, a post racial society has by no means been reached. Our sons innocence and naivety in this regard may be the very thing that costs them their life.

4. Do everything you possibly can to have open and honest conversations that educate and inform White people. There are lots of them who are open-minded and willing to learn from you, about you, and your perspective. Also, take the time to learn from them, it is equally as important. There are a lot of these types of constructive conversations that take place everyday in America, considerably more than those who live on the respective fringes want us to believe.

5. Pray for all of our children and work hard as a Black man to lead by example. It will help debunk the negative stereotyping that is prevalent in our society and often is the catalyst for harm to our youngsters and the racial profiling we seek to eliminate.

For so many of us, these things may seem to be simple and straightforward tasks that we take on everyday. If that is the case, I am glad and not trying to come across as some know-it-all. Please continue to do them and know that this is just a friendly and timely reminder from a fellow brother in the struggle. If the murder of Trayvon Martin has caused you to re-focus and you are looking for some food for thought, I hope these suggestions give you some.

We are all in this together. Sometimes, education is not learning something new but reviewing those principles that are important so that your education continues.

I pray for peace and blessings.

Read, learn, and share……Have a Family Meeting!

C. Randolph Keller

This entry was posted in African American Leadership, Conduct and Behavior, Education, Family, Fatherhood, Love and Relationships, Trayvon Martin. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to SOME THOUGHTS OF A BLACK FATHER DURING THIS TRYING TIME

  1. momshieb says:

    This is a very powerful and well written post, and I applaud your effort to get all of us to be more thoughtful and careful. I do have to say, though, that while I know that black youth have the greatest need to protect themselves from the authorities and those who try to act in the capacity of authority, even white parents share your fears.
    I have two sons, aged 19 and 21. My 19 year old wears his hair a bit long and curly, always sports a big smile, and stands just under 6 feet tall. His older brother as almost 6’4″, wears his hair close shaven, and is very quiet and reserved. He has had people cross the street as he walks toward them, especially if it is dusk or dawn.
    I have taught both of my boys that if they are stopped for a traffic violation, they must keep their hands in sight and not reach for the glove compartment or anything else until they have asked permission.
    This story is not to imply, in any way, that Black parents shouldn’t feel real fear for the kids. It is to ask this question: who the hell have we become, that ANY children have to live in fear of those in power?
    It is way past time for us all to stand up and make some noise.

    • Thank you so much and your point is not lost on me. It is this type of dialogue that is so critical to the construction of positive change.

      Thak you for following The Family Meeting and I hope that you will continue to do so and weigh in. This is what I am hoping to build.

      All the best to you and your family.

  2. Hi I read your article and while I agree with having to teach your children differently because of race, I respectfully disagree that white fathers do not have to worry as much. My situation is a little more unique I have two interracial children so I am burdened with the fact that I have to teach my son and daughter what to look out for and not teach him that it is one group of people, but that hate can come from anywhere African-American, white, Hispanic, Asian, etc. It is a great injustice what happened to this young man and my heart filled prayers go out to his family I can not imagine what they are going through. I know there is a lot of evil still left in this world, but evil knows no race, gender or ethnicity, so to single out one is not the right way to do it. Teaching our children the signs is extremely important, but also teaching them that they can come from anyone is also just important.
    Thank you for your time Mr. Keller

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