Commentary: Being black is too much

Commentary: Being black is too much
October 06
05:30 2016

Micha James

Guest Columnist

He is 5-foot-8.5, 175 pounds at 12 years old and he is my son.  He wears his height and weight as badges of honor, especially when people think he is older than what he is. What kid wouldn’t?  I fuss at least twice a week about him keeping his room tidy and not eating all the snacks in the house.  My stories sound similar to my friends who have kids the same age.  We deem it as typical middle school behavior.  I don’t fear much, but my fear for my black son’s life is growing each time I scroll through my Facebook timeline and read about another unarmed black man being murdered.

Will he have an opportunity to speak so a police officer will possibly hear that he’s only 12?  That probably won’t work because his voice is deep. They won’t know that his laugh most definitely lets you know he is still a kid or that he has braces that he gets tired of me asking about whether he has flossed.  They won’t have time to learn that he has wanted to be a K-9 officer since the third grade.  They won’t know that he spends a lot of time watching the Discovery Channel and is extremely knowledgeable about animals and insects.

They won’t know how much of a homebody he is and that he would much rather play soccer than the expected sports of football and basketball.  They won’t know this because to them he will be seen as a “bad dude.”

I have run out of ways to make the conversation about police shootings interesting to my son.  He was annoyed when I asked him to Google the most recent shooting because he said he needed to finish his homework.  It is no longer breaking news to him; it is just another news story. That is not normal.  I pray for balance with not allowing him to have social media accounts because of the things he will be exposed to that he is not emotionally mature enough to handle, yet allowing him to watch parts of the shootings to help him understand the seriousness of what is considered a “bad dude.”

He doesn’t understand why I am so excited that two of his four core curriculum teachers are black. He doesn’t understand why we travel as far as we do to visit his black pediatrician when there are so many doctors less than 10 minutes from our house.  I do it because I want to surround him with as much “community” as possibly.  Many of his friends/classmates are white.  Their parents call all the time asking for my son to spend time with their families.  I appreciate them, but am not naïve to the fact that if it is between their sons and mine; mine will be the “bad dude.”

I work two jobs, which means we spend a lot of time apart, so I hate using our time together talking about the dos and don’ts of being black.  With each conversation, I strip away another piece of his childhood.  The pain of explaining why, because I don’t know the criteria of what a “bad dude” is, I selfishly made him cut some of his beloved afro off to help him look more childlike.

I do all of this while not having an opportunity to use “being black” as an excuse to call out of work. Fronting my anger is a faux smile I give patients and coworkers who I feel are waiting for me to exhibit some “angry black woman” behavior.  As I type this, I check my feelings as best I can despite being on the phone with a customer in Charlotte who I feel is baiting me by talking about the riots.

Were it not for prayer and my village, I am almost certain I would have had a psychotic breakdown.  Much like parenting, being black doesn’t come with an instruction manual and I do not mind saying it has become too much and I need HELP!

Micha James is a freelance writer from Winston-Salem.  She is also a proud Alumna of Winston-Salem State University who is passionate about helping and inspiring others.

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