I set my son free today.
I wasn’t prepared for what happened before I set him free, but there I was with it up close and personal. My 7 YO son had developed stereotypes despite my good intentions of shielding him from them. What I apparently failed to realize was I was shielding him from being the recipient of negative stereotypes but not the harborer of them. What’s worse is that his stereotypes were forming against young chocolatey brown young men that looked like HIM…and that just could never be! Here’s how it went down:
Hudson (looking out the upstairs window onto the neighboring house below) : Mommy, I think there’s some boys up to no good. You should come see this.
Me (knowing the rarity of that happening in our neighborhood): Huh? In the back?
Hudson: Yeah. Come see.
Me (now standing beside him looking out the window): Do you mean those boys right there?
Me: Those boys playing basketball in their backyard?
Hudson: Uh huh.
Me (in shock and immediately saddened): Hudson, what about those boys look like they’re up to no good to you?
Hudson: (shrugs). They just seem like it. That boy (pointing) was down low a minute ago.
Me (trying to figure out if I’m talking to a crotchety old man and not my little boy): Hudson, do you feel that way because they’re brown? Remember we talked about this a few weeks ago when you said that the brown gentleman jogging looked like a thug running from the police but said nothing about the white gentleman jogging a block beyond him. So, let’s examine the situation because they’re a lot of people who feel like you do about brown boys for no reason. And, you’re one of those brown boys they feel that way about, so let’s examine what you see to see if it’s grounded in truth. Let’s watch them for a minute.
Hudson: (listening and looking intently)
Me: Now, see, there are about six of them and they’re playing basketball. Look at how they’re moving. They are really playing a game of basketball. Look. That young man you said was down low is low again. Look what he has in his hands since he’s standing up straight. It’s the ball, right? He was probably dribbling. Do you see any of them looking around like they’re trying to look out for the police? Nope. They’re genuinely passing the ball to one another. Now, where are they?
Hudson: In a backyard. But how do you know they’re not sneaking in the backyard and trying to do something?
Me: That’s a great question! Look, the gate is open. What do you see just outside the gate in the driveway?
Me: Excellent! You see two cars. Generally, bad people don’t break in when someone’s home because the people inside could call the police. Now, what do you notice about the fence?
Hudson: It’s open.
Me: Exactly! It’s wide open like they have nothing to hide. Now look again at the boys now that you’ve looked all around at the whole scene. What do you see?
Hudson (in tears): They just look like they’re playing basketball.
Me: Exactly! Why are you in tears?
Hudson: Because you sound mad at me and that I thought that about them.
Me: I’m not mad at you baby. I’m just using this moment to teach you to examine the facts surrounding what you see because sometimes what we see is clouded by how we feel. God wants us to walk in truth. And baby, you’re my beautiful little chocolatey deliciousness. God made you and those boys playing basketball in his image. Unless you see otherwise, don’t think brown means bad. Ok?
Hud: (hugs me tightly through tears) I love you, mommy!
Me: I love you too, baby.
Then, he went off to play and his mommy went to her room and bawled crocodile tears about how she’s a failure as a parent that she didn’t catch that her son is embracing the racist manifesto. And, after she cried over that, she cried some more over whether he was having identity or self-esteem issues, whether if not seeing enough brown boys on t.v. is negatively affecting her son, whether she’s doing all she needed to do as a mom, and every other hyperbolic fear she could muster…
But, then she remembered what she had JUST told her son about not assuming the worst and walking in truth, and went and made lunch while her totally ok son played upstairs with his equally ok brother.
“Then you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” John 8:32