One of the greatest joys and privileges that men get is to become a husband, and if we are lucky enough, fathers. Growing up, I worshipped the ground my father walked on. He was a military man serving two tours in Korea. He took great respect in honoring his country and protecting his family. His father was an army man as well.
My father raised me to be a hard-worker, respectable, and a family-oriented man. He taught me to respect and honor my country and the people in it, regardless of their skin color or imperfections. So, when I became a father, I couldn’t wait to instill those same values into my sons.
What I wasn’t prepared for was to raise my children in a world that has become just as divided now as it was in the 1960s. I recently had a conversation with my 11 and 9-year-old sons and asked them, do you feel safe in our country? My youngest son’s response floored me! My nine year old responded, “I don’t want to be shot because of the color of my skin.” Can you imagine the deep sense of pain and anguish that I felt hearing him make that statement?
There is a heart-wrenching fear within me that my sons could be incarcerated or even die for being black. I have to explain to them that their blackness is not a threat; it’s a privilege. If we are honest, these conversations don’t have to happen often in non-white homes.
My wife and I work diligently to ensure that our children are provided with a safe and diverse community. We have raised our children to always carry themselves with dignity, respect, to treat people as they want to be treated, and to get to know a person before you formulate a narrative without learning their story. We have been very intentional in giving them a real-world perspective. They attend a private school, we live in a diverse community, and they attend a multi-ethnic church.
But the harsh reality is forever present. No matter how hard we work to provide better lives and experiences for our children, there is one thing that I can’t change: I’m raising two black men in a divided world. To be honest, I shouldn’t have to tell my sons if you ever get pulled over by a police officer please don’t make a sudden move, keep your hands 10 and 2 on the steering wheel, and watch your tone when you speak to an officer so you don’t pose as a threat.
I shouldn’t have to say if you hear words that defame your character, the words can never destroy who you are. Is every non-black person prejudice? No. Still, I have to prepare my sons differently in a world, for centuries, that has seen their color as a threat. This is a challenging truth to ponder upon; at times, I am angered by the thought and it brings tears to my eyes.
Raising black sons in a divided world has been one of the most significant challenges of my life. Yet, I still have hope. See, what my father instilled in me is not to judge a person by their outward appearance. Being a respectful human being has given me the tools to prepare my sons to not only live but to thrive in this world.
I have hope that God will break the power of racism and prejudice in our world. I’m not just raising sons in a divided world, but I’m raising young black men who will change the world by the way they live. I’m raising men to challenge the systems and explicit biases that desire to hold them back by raising their personal standard.
I didn’t have access to private education or a multi-ethnic community, tutors, or private music lessons. My goal is to give them every tool I can to ensure they are the best men they can be. Regardless, there is a constant, harsh reality that I face every day. What I can do is teach them to love unconditionally and to live without fear.
I wouldn’t trade my role as a father for any other position in the world. Raising black sons in a divided world is an honor! I thank the Lord for trusting me with such a noble assignment.
“Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him.” (Psalm 127:3, NLT)