“Mommy, but kids can’t die right?”
That is the question my daughter asked me as we were walking up to the vigil for Jamyla Bolden, the 9-year-old girl from Ferguson who was fatally shot while sitting on her mothers’ bed doing homework by a man who shot into the bedroom window. Just two streets over from where Mike Brown’s body laid slain for over 4.5 hours in the hot sun just a year before. After hearing the tragic news, I wanted to come and give the family support for the loss of their loved one and in doing so, I knew my daughter would have some questions while we were there.
“Mommy, kids can’t die right?”
“Not exactly. Kids can die, unfortunately?”
“How did Jamyla die, though?”
“Someone shot her.”
“Did they do it on purpose?”
“Yes, I believe so.”
“I don’t want that to happen to me, Mommy.”
“I don’t want it to either, baby.”
That’s as truthful as I could be with my child. Although I wanted to tell her without hesitation that that wouldn’t happen to her, I couldn’t guarantee that for her.
As a Black mother raising a Black child in today’s society, that is one of my greatest fears. The fact that I had to have that conversation with my (then five) year old child and have to break her innocence by letting her know that there is a possibility that as a child – even at five- she could die by the hands of another.
The fears of raising Black kids are way beyond making sure they come in before the street lights come on, letting them know to not let anyone in the house if they are home alone, not taking candy from strangers, and not going into adult chatrooms online (outdated). No, we’ve moved way beyond that. Every situation enters us into survival mode. We just want our kids to stay alive.
I asked a few Black parents what was their greatest fear for raising Black children and how do they combat that fear and this was a few of their responses:
“My fear is them not being able to enjoy their carefree youth” – Kasper
“My greatest fear is not being able to protect them from how cruel the world can be and cramming them with info and truth that takes away their innocence” -Sheree
“The degrading rap lyrics about women seeming normal to her” – Chauntez
“Not being able to always be there for them, protect them and keep them from all that is not right” – Heather
“I worry that my fear will not allow me to let her enjoy what life has to offer and that my desire to protect her will instill an unhealthy fear of the outside world” – Elisabeth
All of which are common discussions amongst Black dinner tables all across the country. The unfortunate truth is that not only is raising Black children in American frightening but being Black in America (with child or not) provokes an immense amount of worry and fear. Our fathers, uncles, brothers, husbands, and friends are being murdered with impunity, our women are being scrutinized for being care-free, our children are being pushed through the pipeline straight to prison, and the media has a field day by demeaning our value each and every single chance they get. To be honest, if I didn’t have faith in WHO I am and WHOSE I am, the current happenings of this world would have erased every ounce of hope I’ve ever had – easily. For most (and for me) I know it’s not that simple as saying a short prayer and going about your day but for me, that is where I at least try to start.
A consistent prayer of mine as a parent is that I DO NOT raise my child out of fear. Evil lurks around every corner and I believe it is my job as to stay abreast of all that is out there that is a threat to my child but to use my fear of this world as a guide to parent my child, is beyond unfair to her and to me.
How these fears are combated:
“Show my daughter how a man is supposed to treat a woman” – Chauntez
“Always tell them the truth but try to let them remain children” – Sheree
“Prayer” – Elisabeth
As for me, I just do what I can and chunk up the mistakes as they come. I’m pretty open with my daughter about the evil in this world but I modify my words to where a six-year-old can understand and not have nightmares after having the conversation. I also try to wait until she comes to me with a question and I have a discussion rather than throwing things in her face. I have come to terms with the fact that there are things that my child is going to see/hear that is out of my control so I would rather her express her inquiries with me than someone else who may be ill-intended.
Being a parent, in general, is frightening. Another life is in your hands and anything that happens, you are completely responsible. But for us Brown folk, it’s another ball game. I trust that I am doing a good job and that I’ve been equipped with the tools to raise her just as I’m sure every parent hopes to have.
Pray for the parents who have lost their children to the evil that plagues this world and pray for the parents who are working daily to prevent these things from happening.
RIP Jamyla. RIP Mike Brown. RIP Mansur Ball Bey……and unfortunately, this list continues.