What will getting older mean for my black sons?

[Written by Love Isn't Enough contributor Liz; Originally published at Los Angelista]

Last night I observed my nine year old son lounging on the couch… and I’m not sure when this happened but he’s grown so much he’s now the length of three out of four cushions.

When people ask him how old he is, he replies, “Almost ten.” Never mind that he doesn’t even turn ten till the end of January. In his mind, it’s a done deal.

“I’m gonna be a tween!” he says in a voice that’s always too gleeful for my ears. He doesn’t exactly “get” that the tween and teen years might not bring the same things to him, a young black male, that they do to the fantasy land of the white kids on the Disney channel.

Come to think of it, I have yet to see a show on either Nickelodeon, Disney, Disney XD or ABC Family that in any way portrays the true impact of racism on young black males. And I must’ve missed the after-school specials about how to deal with suddenly going from being perceived as a cute and harmless young black boy, to being seen as a scary and threatening black youth.

I’ve long asked myself, what will getting older mean for my two black sons? Looking at my almost five foot long eldest son stretched out on the sofa, finding out the answers to that question is suddenly closer than I want it to be.

Even walking down the street is set to become more complicated for my boys. As we strolled over to our local park on Saturday, I couldn’t help but think about a recent piece over at Clutch Magazine by the wonderful Britni Danielle that spotlights the problem of simply walking down the street while black:

“Thursday, the ACLU of Pennsylvania filed a lawsuit challenging “stop and frisk” searches by the Philadelphia police department.

The ACLU’s lawsuit was a result of a complaint filed on behalf of eight men, including Jewell Williams, a state lawmaker. Mr. Williams said he was handcuffed and detained during a traffic stop. The police later apologized to him, citing a misunderstanding.

But what happens if you’re not a state congressman?”


I don’t want to project what experiences my sons will have, but chances are, that’s going to happen to them sometime in the future. How do I know this? I live in the United States and racism runs deep through the social fabric of this country, and Los Angeles is not exempt from that.

It is not a joyful feeling to feel like I need to tell my nine year-old that as he gets older the ladies that say he’s adorable are going to morph into women who clutch their purses a little tighter when he approaches. I have not yet found the balance between letting my sons be children, and proactively telling them the role racism is going to increasingly play in their lives.

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