My Son Has Rules to Live By and It’s Not What You Think

Growing up, my mom made it very clear that, as black kids, our lives were not the same as white children. For my brother, he was a threat. And for me, I was in danger always. Watching this viral TikTok video of a black teen listing the rules given to him by his mom as a form of protection sounded familiar to me. Many of those rules echoed those of my mother for me and my brother. As a mother now, I will pass these same rules down to my own son like some sick family tradition that I don’t want any parts of but have no choice but to participate in. That makes me angry. It’s made me angry before this last week of riots. It made me angry before the death of Trayvon, Tamir, George, Breonna, Sandra, and countless more. It made me angry before I even had a child and before I even became an adult. But as I simmer in this anger and fear once more, I started to think about the other kind of rules that I am going to makes sure my son lives by. Will he have to be overly cautious around police officers and white people in general that may view him as a threat just for existing? Yes. Will he face discrimination in the workforce, housing, education, and anything else that requires cutting through a thick rope of generational hatred? Probably. But there are rules that he will follow that are not rooted in fear, rather they are rooted in empowerment and self-love as well as self-preservation.

  1. Don’t ever allow yourself to be the butt of someone’s racial jokes. They aren’t funny and should be shut down immediately.
  2. Demand that your name be pronounced and spelled correctly at all times.
  3. Do not ever feel like you have to choose between your appreciation for Black culture and professionalism. You’re not a one dimensional creature and are allowed to turn up to DaBaby while also being educated and accomplished. White folks don’t have to choose and neither do you.
  4. If you choose to enter into a interracial relationship, whether dating or marriage, know that while your spouse may be accepting and tolerant, some of their family may be deplorable. When Uncle Bill starts blabbing about the importance of the Confederate Flag and, after a few Thanksgiving brews, starts chanting build the wall, shut him down. Get up and leave. While these are just words and your spouse doesn’t necessarily agree, you do not have to deal with that kind of trauma for anyone, ever. If your spouse loves you (or hell, even likes you) they will understand and they will stand up for you.
  5. You get to decide who is allowed to use the N-word around you. No explanation required.
  6. It is not your job or duty to educate or validate your Black experience. While you choose to be a source of communication and education as those conversations can be the catalyst for change, the color of your skin does not make teaching a requirement. You do not have to relive trauma if you do not want to.
  7. When slavery, police brutality, and other re-tellings are released in the form of entertainment, it is ok if it takes you awhile to get around to watching them. They are triggering and that doesn’t need to be explained. Protect your mental health King.
  8. Remember that, while Black culture is one that is built on being strong and resilient, you have every right to rest and take care. Your mental health is a priority and, while you can still proudly wear an armor of strength and resilience, it will be a crumbling foundation without mental wellness as a building block.

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