This post is written by Senior Fellow, Charmaine Ruddock MS. She directs Bronx Health REACH, a coalition of 50 community and faith-based organizations, funded by the Centers for Disease Control’s REACH 2010 Initiative to address racial and ethnic health disparities.
Last night, I finally had the talk with my 19 year old son. I had to tell him that as a young black man his life isn’t worth much to the people who should protect him and to a system that should hold the people accountable if they hurt or killed him. No mother or father should ever have to have that talk with their son. The son they have raised to be an honorable man, an ambitious man, a generous and thoughtful man. But I had to. And I listened to many callers on the radio station who had to do the same with their sons. I listened to one of the most successful radio and TV personalities and best-selling authors today tell his radio listeners that they must realize that they are not invited to this party, called the United States of America. He told them that they must recognize that the line of the Constitution that speaks of ‘justice and liberty for all’ does not pertain to them. He said he has been a black man for 57 years and that’s what he knows for sure—and that’s what he has to teach his three sons.
I had the talk with my son. I told him if he gets stopped by the police when he is driving he must wind down all the windows, and if it is at night, turn on the roof light, then put his hands, fingers splayed at the very top of the steering wheel. When he is asked for his driver’s license and registration, he should indicate by the turning of his head where it is and then ask the policeman’s permission to go and get it. It was advice I had heard one of the call-in radio listeners tell of the drill practice he does with his college son.
I had the talk with my son. And I felt dirty. I had told this young man whom I have taught—it seems as soon as he came out my womb—about being honorable and what manhood means, to ignore all that I had taught him because, as I told him, I want him to grow old.
So, yes, I had the talk with my son. And it felt like I had emasculated him and desecrated my spirit.
written by Charmaine Ruddock