Dear mama: Raise your son. To coddle him is to cripple him. Your black son will always be your “baby.” But as he passes through puberty — from boy to man — he is destined to become America’s most hated. Most feared. Most murdered, even by his own brothers.
I know your heart is tender. That a son holds a special place in a mother’s heart. I am eternally in my mother’s.
But she never coddled me. Never acted as if she was unfit for the job. Never quit. Never looked to any man — not even my sperm donor — to complete this great assignment.
Mama was enforcer. Confidant. Counselor. Teacher. Disciplinarian. Cheerleader. Coach — mostly on things academic. Pastor. Leader. Shoulder. Encourager. Protector. Fixer.
To coddle: “To treat with extreme or excessive care or kindness.” To treat with indulgence. To pamper. To cook something (especially eggs) just below the boiling point.
To coddle your black son, dear mama, is to maim him.
Our sons lie slain in urban streets, their brain matter splattered. Strange fruit, they lie near their fitted caps and new Jordans that punctuate their lifeless, stiffening legs as the Death Angel kneels to claim their souls.
Dear mama, the hand that rocks the cradle still rules the world. The mother who safely guides her son through the peril of adolescence that exists with unique and deadly consequence for black males in America, will save a nation. For we perish.
If you give your son no consequences for his actions, you cripple him. If you tell him to do something again and again and again, and still it remains undone-and yet, all you do is fuss-you have done him a grave disservice. Let there be consequence.
If you shame him in front of his male friends, you emasculate him. Scold him privately — unless, as my mother used to say, he “acts a fool in public.” Then handle your business right there.
If you do not set the bar, establish parameters and give no room for compromise on certain things — like respecting others, working hard in school, doing chores, letting you know his whereabouts at all times-you open the door to foolhardiness and folly. Set boundaries.
If you do not find elders who will bestow upon him “manhood” and walk alongside him, you hobble him. Create the “village.” Seek out good men who will speak life into your son and model manhood.
And yet, you must remain captain of this ship.
I write with a heavy heart, having witnessed too many of our sons slain; too much potential sleeping in the morgue; too many of us locked behind prison bars like animals; and far too many more of our sons headed that way.
While my own mother ultimately could not teach me to be a man, she taught me the lessons that made manhood for me possible so that I am not today simply an adult male but willingly — gladly and proudly — shoulder the responsibility that makes me a man.
Dear mama, you are the answer. Our best hope. You have always been.
Don’t be afraid. They-we-need you to be strong in the spirit of biblical Moses’ mother Jochebed, meaning “glory of Jehovah.” Amid Pharaoh’s decree to kill all Hebrew male babies, his praying mother sealed him in a basket and set it in the Nile.
Years later, he returned to reclaim the mother who had carried him and given him all she had for his good. Turns out that “his good” was for the good of a nation and also his mother.
Can I get a witness?