by TIFFANY HALL
I’ve been having trouble sleeping.
I had been sitting on pins and needles all day last week as the media teased the announcement of the Ferguson grand jury decision in the case of the slaughter of Mike Brown, and yesterday, that feeling was there again with the announcement of the Eric Garner grand jury decision. I had already concluded what the outcome would be. I mean, after Trayvon Martin, and Jordan Davis, the narrative seemed to write itself. But it still didn’t prepare me for the sick feeling that brewed in my stomach when the decisions were announced.
I saw the same themes on social media about racism, police brutality, and the villainization of Black youth. These social media debates arise every few months when a tragedy like this occurs. But it meant something different to me, as my son, just a few months shy of his first birthday, lay asleep next to me.
My son is only half-Black. His skin is beige to my brown, and his hair peppered with a few loose curls. I receive streams of compliments on a daily basis on his looks. With wide-brown eyes and cherub cheeks, he appears non-threatening and endearing. Yes, he is pleasing to the eye, as most infants are.
However, I know that with time, that will fade. He will one day grow tall and sprout muscles, and bear physical strength that overpowers mine. His skin may warm to a darker shade, and he’ll no longer be the cute, ethnically ambiguous-looking infant that he is now. He’ll be another Black boy in the world’s cross-hairs. And what will I say to him then?
As a mother, it burdens me to have to start rehearsing how I will explain this to him. That there will be a chance that 50% of who he is may go unnoticed, because of his phenotypic presentation. That because of the way he looks, the world will attempt to dictate to him who he is and who he cannot be. He is at a stage in his life where the world is a large, fascinating place with little to fear. How can I raise him to not be naïve, without robbing him of the feelings of safety he will need to ultimately become who he wants to be?
As a woman, I am not adequately-equipped to explain to him how be to be a man, nonetheless a Black man with a white father. There will be crosses that he will bear that I have not. I hope that I can help him to shape an identity that represents all of who he is. I accept that I will not have all the answers. But I also accept that the questions scare me.
By the time my son is cognizant enough to realize the truth of the horrors that plague this world, I hope that things will have improved. I hope that his character will supersede what his appearance presents. For now, I take comfort in the fact that my son wakes up in the morning looking forward to his next discovery. And my heart weeps for the mother whose son does not have the privilege of waking up at all.
Tiffany Hall is a therapist, writer, and first-time mom learning to balance work, love, and family in Philadelphia. You can find her on Twitter at @tiffilating.