Dear Stephen E. Beaven III (or, as we call you, Trey!)
You are by far the most beautiful and amazing baby boy I’ve ever met, I can honestly say that because 1. I gave birth to you 2. We prayed for you to be great even before you were born. Your Dad and I are so happy that you joined your sister. Even though you were a surprise to us, we know that most blessings begin as surprises. My greatest wish for you is that you never doubt that you are so loved by your family, and that you know that we would sacrifice anything to ensure that you are safe and whole.
I think most parents would say that about their children: but – and it pains me to say this to you, Son- everyone in society may not value and love you the way that we do. You come from extremely strong men, your Dad, both of your Grandfathers, and your two Uncles, all hardworking men, all extremely talented, and generous. Traits that I know they are going to instill in you. But I also know that some people may not take the time to get to know you. I know that even though it’s 2017, you may still be judged by the color of your skin.
At the ultrasound when we found out that we were having a boy, we were so excited. We joked, “a boy for your Dad” since your sister was already Mama’s girl. But, for me, that excitement was tempered by angst. As Mothers who have had, are having, or are raising a Black male, we are fearful. We are fearful that nothing is enough in the face of a society that continues to fear Black men. We are fearful that the world has yet to come to terms with the fact that not every black male is a threat. We are fearful because we know the mechanisms of systemic racism: we know about the over-incarceration of Black males, we know about the killing of unarmed Black boys, and we know that teachers focus on the behavior of Black boys differently than they do their White counterparts.
The fact of the matter is that you aren’t different from most young black men. No different from Tamir, Trayvon, Mike, Emmitt, Eric, Sean, or even Philando. Your city may be different, your family may be different, your upbringing may be different, but you all have one thing in common…..you’re Black men in America. As a mom, there is a very specific and real pain that I feel for each of these young men and their families. It seemed like every time we would turn on the news, we would see something about another young man being murdered. With every news story, my heart would skip a beat and tears would begin to fall. What if that were my son? I don’t know them, but I am like them. I am connected at the heart to a sweet, Black boy.
My sweet, Trey, I wish I could tell you that everyone will adore you and respect your boundaries and believe you and give you the benefit of the doubt. But, and I tell you this as your mother- because it is my charge to keep you safe and teach you. Even if the rest of the world isn’t ready for you, don’t let them cage you in with hatred. Respect people, even if they may not return it.
And the truth is, even after all of this, I am hopeful. Why? Because I believe in you! I truly believe that you will always be the most beautiful, smart and caring boy and as you enter manhood, you will take these traits with you.
And, maybe most importantly, as your parents it is our job to remain prayerful for you! Someday, you will know the names I mentioned above and you will understand their circumstances individually, and you will have the ability to form your own opinions. As you grow and learn, my hope for you is that you know how much we love you, we respect you, and that you learn to leave situations better than how you entered them. And believe it or not, despite everything I’ve mentioned here, I am hopeful. Nothing will take away my hope, Trey- and don’t let anything take yours away, either.
Trey, you’ve already made me incredibly proud of you, and my prayer for you nightly is that you remain generous, talented, and grateful. As much as we want to keep you in the house and lock the doors, it’s impossible for us to shelter you from the cruel realities of the world. If we did that, we would also be sheltering you from all of the good in the world!
Be smart, be strong, be kind, be patient. Work for progress. It is not up to you to change other people’s minds: so only focus on being the best possible version of yourself…even if people don’t receive it. We have faith in you, and we know that the world is already a better place, simply because you’re in it.