Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Black Mother Fears for Her Teenage Son

DEAR HARRIETTE: I don’t know what to say to my son about all of the stuff happening in our country. I am a black mother with a black teenager. I am afraid every time he goes outside. I have actually appreciated the quarantine because I had a reason to keep him inside, but that can’t last. I am at a loss as to how to protect my boy. I know you don’t have any magic words, but can you give any guidance? -- Save My Son

DEAR SAVE MY SON: The unrest happening in our country right now stems from people being fed up with the racial injustice that continues to haunt our nation. It is heart-wrenching to see that in 2020, black and brown people are murdered by law enforcement officials and citizens. Worse still is that it often happens without repercussion.

This tragedy needs to end, yet people have been saying this for generations. It is time for all of us to take a good, hard look at ourselves -- at our thoughts, words and deeds -- so that we can figure out a way forward. Somehow, we have to tap into the humanity of one another and call forth our goodness rather than hatred and rage.

I hate that black families routinely teach their sons, in particular, how to engage the police in order to stay alive. “The talk” for black males is not about sex and how to make smart choices regarding intimacy. The talk is about how to be quiet, follow directions, keep your hands in sight, don’t run, don’t talk back -- or die. Who wants to have that talk with a young person whom you want to grow up to feel strong and free?

Yet, that’s what’s real.

My heart aches for you and your son and for all of the mothers and sons and families who are questioning how to move forward. You are right: There is no easy answer. I wish I could say it’s safer to travel in a group because there’s safety in numbers. Not true. Being in a group is often seen as being in a gang. I wish I could say to go out only in daylight, but I could give you a list of black men who have been murdered in the light of day.

Remind your son to live by the values you have taught him. Make sure he treats everyone with respect. Teach him to trust his intuition. If it feels unsafe to be in a particular place, he should leave immediately. Urge him to stand up for himself, even when that means standing in silence until it is the right time to talk.

Encourage your son to believe that his life matters. Remind him of how much you love him and want him to have a full and glorious life. Require him to vote the moment he is old enough. Tell him that his thoughts, words and deeds must guide his steps. With hard work, your love and God’s grace, tell him you pray that he survives and thrives.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to askharriette@harriettecole.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)