Last night I ordered one of each of these shirts from DNBE, a company that promotes what they call positive propaganda:
If you think about it, your t-shirt is like a billboard, and every day you’re walking around advertising something (or maybe nothing if it’s a blank tee or a meaningless design) . That advertisement says something about the person wearing it and has an effect (conscious or subconscious) on the people around him/her. Why waste that valuable advertising space? Why not use it to uplift the people? … For that brief moment you know that there are other people out there that have not lost their minds. And that positive energy is infectious and magnetic. With enough people catching on, we can start to turn this situation around. That’s positive propaganda, and that’s why we’re here…
To grab onto something that feels positive in the message department for young Black men today is not an easy find. I, like many mamas I know who are parenting young men of color have found myself traveling the continuum from abject despair to enraged disbelief and everything in between. I have been attending rallies, and reading my poems out loud to honor Trayvon, Michael, Tamir, Eric, and, and, and…
I have been talking to colleagues, friends, family, and anyone really who will listen and tried again to get those who don’t seem to care to notice what I am saying for a moment. At work when I am asked how I am, I try to answer truthfully; “In a state of disbelief. Crushed. Shocked that our country has such a broken judicial system, and devalues the lives of so many of the young men and women here in our schools…” I have prayed. I have hugged my boys so much more. Each time I catch myself forgetting, I notice Sammy or Marcel just walking out of the room and think to myself; “he is coming back.”
I say this to honor all the mothers who can’t.
I have also tuned out completely, because I have that choice. I don’t just mean that I deactivated my Facebook, and disappeared almost entirely from social media. I mean that I can pop into the gas station to get a cup of coffee, and not engage with the headline on the newspaper out loud or in private, if I don’t want to. I can say; “I can’t deal today.” I am not the one Black colleague in the school who everyone either avoids, or seeks out after another horror show is splayed across the news. I can just carry on and not engage. I can, and I do. I am not a young Black man walking down the street wondering if it is safe here, or in the convenience store being watched to see if I steal a candy bar while I am waiting to pay for my coffee.
I have accepted invitations to be on panels, and co-design Ferguson units with colleagues. I have scheduled several meetings for the next three months with various white men in positions of power in the field of education to talk about how we keep talking about this in schools and beyond, because it is one way I can use my voice, experience and privilege to promote a little more positive propaganda.
I have wondered if I would care this much today if my sons were white. I have not always answered that question honestly.
I have so much gratitude and appreciation for all the people in our lives who can listen, and who are climbing up underneath this massive weight next to us, and offering to do more than just hold it up too.
Sammy just woke up, and asked for a cuddle. I stopped writing, and crawled up into his bunk bed, rearranged his twisted up blankets and sheets, and wrapped myself up in him too. In a few days he will be ten. He will be just two years younger than Tamir Rice who was shot when he was reaching for his toy gun-most likely show the police officers it was fake-when they were all screaming at him to put his hands up. That’s when he was killed. It was a few days after his twelfth birthday.
Sammy will not be getting any toy guns for his birthday, and we have talked about why. Sammy asked for anything in the remote control helicopter department, an x-box, and some footy pajamas-because he used to love to wear them when he was little…
A great post. I’m so proud to know you. You are such an inspiration and positive force and I appreciate positive motivation to continue to what’s right for our children and for ourselves. Thank you.
Thanks for being so personal, I read your blog often to learn how to see! I am the white grandmother of Kofi my beloved mixed grandson who is turning 8 in a couple of weeks…. before when there were horrible instances of racial violence or injustice I would feel rage, disgust, a helpless need to act. Even when Kofi was five or six he was so cute and innocent I was in denial that he could face the terror so many young black men and their families do. Like you I count the years he has left before he loses that freedom from wariness, even terror. And I feel all those other feelings but now there is a very personal icy fear.
The time is coming when the family (his mom and dad and his mom’s family) will gather to talk about how to protect him but even more how to insure he values himself no matter what. I look forward to that discussion because I feel so ill equipped, I just don’t know first hand what he will face. Thanks again for expressing so openly and honestly what it is like for you.
Blessings to you and yours Gale (downeast Maine)
So what worries us this Christmas? I’ll tell you what. It seems as if our flag is always at half-mast. For Michael Brown in Ferguson, for Eric Garner on Staten Island, for Tamir Rice (age 12) in Cleveland, and for all the other black Americans (and others of color) who leave their home each day leery of the police, of being hassled or worse, insulted or otherwise made to feel that they’re not welcome, not respected, judged only by the color of their skin. For years we’ve taken comfort from the progress made by the Civil Rights Movement, the election of a president of color, the growing number of black Americans in public office, good jobs, seats in first class. But clearly, that “progress” doesn’t cover it. The miasma from the country’s racist proclivities still engulfs us. It’s “societal poison,” to use Charles Blow’s phrase. Our daughter Kate and her husband are raising two black boys. Fine youngsters. Sam, the oldest, turns 10 this Christmas. He’s already been the object of hate speech on the playground. What’s ahead for him and his brother. I shudder to think.
Kate, read your post and all the links. Thank you.
And I have to say that in response to this–“I have wondered if I would care this much today if my sons were white. I have not always answered that question honestly.”–I have increased the amount I speak to my son because of you and your sons, because you have helped me face my own shortcomings and helped me try to raise my son with more awareness. Thanks you.