Today is TB’s last day of elementary school. This day comes complete with a promotion ceremony and a pool party for the entire 5th grade. Even though I’m not a fan of gratuitous graduations, I found myself feeling emotional this morning.
I knew I wasn’t mourning the loss of elementary school. Quite frankly, I didn’t love my kids’ elementary school years. We dealt with bullying and racism and discrimination; nevertheless, God saw us through these years with much more good than bad, and the kids are thriving.
So I prayed.
That’s when I realized the source of my feelings. The plight of black men in the United States set off my emotional roller coaster, not the idea of elementary school ending. Elementary school ending is a rite of passage from childhood into adolescence, and this happy occasion triggered my turmoil, because I understand what it means to be black, male, and adolescent in this country.
I realized this morning that in the eyes of society, TB will lose the cloak of innocence and will no longer be a sweet a little boy.
He will be a suspect, a target, a menace. People will think he is older than he is and bigger than he is. People will see a sneer when what he gave was a smile. People will cross the street and lock their doors when they see him walking down the sidewalk. People will expect him to behave like an adult, because they will see him as an adult even though he’s only a child. People will assume he is a rapist and a drug dealer and violent. People won’t give him the benefit of the doubt. People will assume his guilt until he proves his innocence. People will treat him like an animal, based on these ingrained societal mentalities, even though he’s not even a teenager yet.
What’s funny is that TB doesn’t see the world in this way at all. To him people are good and trustworthy, and the world is full of hope and light.
My prayer this morning is that more and more people approach life in the way TB does and that as a society we release the fears that prevent us from doing so.