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Natalie Davis Linder

My dear son — you don’t know it now but one of our first conversations on the harsh realities of the world took place when you were still inside my belly. Weeks before you entered the world, I watched as communities collectively mourned the loss of two more black men. Their names even now etched in my mind.

Philando in Minnesota, Alton in Louisiana.

Their deaths at the hands of police sparking outbursts of pain and anger. Some violent. All from a place of hurt and frustration. Their names added to a growing list that I run through over and over in my head.

Too many names.

As I watched the news I wondered how I could possibly prepare you and protect you from the violence splashed across the television screen. Then, I came to the realization that many black parents reach.

I can’t.

I can’t shield you from the things that happen and that truth hurts me to my core.

Now, you’re my big boy, 3 years old. You’re growing tall, and I know our talks will soon begin. While these talks are carried out in families of black and brown children almost as a rite of passage every day in America, I’m not sure I’m prepared.

I don’t think I ever will be.

Or maybe, sadly, I am.

I shouldn’t have to be. I shouldn’t have to have these conversations with you alone — without your dad — or at all for that matter.

While many of us like to think that we live in a post-racial America, the reality is, with every video, every protest, every reaction, and after-effect, we are reminded collectively time and time again that it simply isn’t true.

Each time it plays out we collectively say, this isn’t who we are — but is that really true?

I can’t protect you from that harsh reality but what I will do is emphasize that truth. Not to alarm you, but to prepare you for what you’ll encounter soon enough.

Along the way, I’ll do everything within my power to help others see your humanity.

You will be taught to respect yourself, first and foremost, and to respect others — whether they are in uniform or sleeping on the street.

I’ll teach you the importance of honesty and sincerity. I’ll show you compassion and empathy not just through my words but through how you see me treat others.

I’ll do everything I can to keep your heart from hardening, to keep anger from consuming you. I’ll do what I can to help you hold on to that kind heart of yours.

I’ll live each day trying to teach you all these things, but deep down in my gut, I know it isn’t enough. While I can protect you from many things, I know in my heart that I can’t shield you from the callousness that exists in our world.

I can’t cover you from the first racial slur hurled your way. I can’t fend off the side glances that you’ll one day experience, the unkindness of others, or the first time you’re mistreated because of the color of your skin. There’s no way I can prepare you for the internal fear that your very presence may evoke in others.

I can’t always keep you safe even as you’re carrying out normal tasks and doing the everyday things that make you — you.

It hurts knowing that truth.

As you grow older, I’ll hold my breath when you go out on your own, hoping as every parent does for your safe return, but as a black parent, in particular, praying that you won’t be next in harm’s way.

I will do all I can to protect you with every fiber of my being.

I’ll watch as you hopefully learn to channel your anger and frustration over the injustices, tap into your outrage and use it to leave a positive mark on the world.

My beautiful child — my son — the last remaining link your father has left in this world.

You are gracious and kind, inquisitive and smart.

You are talkative and imaginative. Courteous and funny.

You are fearfully and wonderfully made.

You are worthy of respect and equity. You are loved and you demonstrate love to others.

You, my son, are wonderful just as you are.

Your humanity matters.

You matter. Not just to me, but your presence matters in this world.

You, my beautiful brown little boy, are enough.

The world out to know it too.

Natalie Davis Linder is editor of CNHI’s Milledgeville Union-Recorder.

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