Reading the letter found here at My Brown Baby (MBB) , by Nick Chilles (Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of many books) has been a source of great reflection/peace/apprehension/inspiration for me as the mother of two young Black boys.
His letter was written in response to this MBB piece: “Gang Rape In Texas: When Will We Stop Sacrificing Girls In Defense of Black Boys,” In Denene’s words; “Nick was moved to pen this letter to the 11-year-old victim. I extend a special invitation to the mothers and fathers who’ve read this powerful prose to leave empowering and loving messages to and for this child…”
My response to this story is to a)print out the letter and read it over and over again. b) to read it to the boys when they are older and able to hear it. c) to open dialogue with Sam and Marcel about what it means to be a boy. What it means to be a girl. I want to know what messages they are getting already and how they are internalizing them. How they are reacting to, and trying on all those messages.
To that end I asked Sam for help with a special Saturday project. I asked him what he would tell someone from another planet, if they came here and didn’t know how to treat girls. After I framed it, I posed the following questions:
Mommy: So Sam, what would you tell them? How should boys treat girls?
Sam: You’re kidding.
Me: No I’m serious
Sam: They should treat them like I do.
Mommy: How is that?
Sam: Like I treat M and S. I treat them like princesses. I care for them.
Mommy; How do you care for them?
Sam: Easy. You just tell them I love them. You should listen to them of course. Girls like stuff like when you listen.
Me: How should you not treat a girl?
Sam: You should not treat a girl like this; (deep voice) Hey I’m going to beat you up. You don’t tease them. Girls don’t like boys to be mean to them.
Me: If there was one more thing you could tell an alien about boys or girls what would it be.
Sam: You should just take care of them.
So this is my invitation to all of you to head over to MBB, read Nick’s letter the comments and letters that follow, and consider how to join in the conversation too.