A Letter To My Future Son

Me  (R) and my little brother (L) LOL

I am the man I am because of the love and labor of Black women, full stop. I am the culmination of your great grandmother’s pride, your grandmother’s determination, your auntie’s faith, and your mother’s magic. So if you take anything away from this letter, let it be this: It does not take a man to lead, nor mold one, and that which has been sewn into me, and subsequently you, must be returned to the Black women around us via unconditional affirming, listening, deferring, sacrificing, boosting, protecting, following, and through the giving of our time, energy, and monetary resources.

With that said, I wrote this to serve two purposes: one, it is a Thank You to the Black women who have poured into me and held me to the sun, but who also cut away at my oppressive beliefs and practices with surgical precision before setting me on the path of healing; two, it is meant to train you up in the way that you should go and in doing so, alleviating the work that always, inevitably falls on the shoulders of Black women.

Son, while you’re still a youngin, your family, friends and the culture around you will plant seeds of language and beliefs and attitudes about manhood in your garden, and they will tend to your garden until you’re able to do so yourself. Some of the seeds planted will be fruitful and healthy; however, a good bit of them will be toxic, teaching you ways of performing boyhood/manhood that strip you of your full humanity and result in the oppression and exploitation of black women.

“Men are inherently more logical. Women are more emotional.”
"Men are equipped to lead, women to follow."
“Men can’t watch reality TV when the sports are on.”
“Men can’t use an umbrella in light rain.”
“Black men are particularly susceptible to police violence.” (The “only” that precedes BM is invisible.) 
“Boys will be boys.”
“To ‘nice’ men, women owe their time and attention.”
“Men shouldn’t be emphatic about anything Beyonce related.”
“Men can’t wear thong sandals.”
"Boys don't cry."
“Men are hypersexual beings with uncontrollable urges.”
“Men shouldn’t use chapstick.”

The arbitrary rules and characteristics of manhood are harmful to you and especially violent to the Black women with whom we are intimately involved. Nonetheless, patriarchal hypermasculinity is a hill that cishet men are willing to die on every single day, ashy and alone. Some don’t know any better. I will see to it that you don’t have that excuse. It is my responsibility to teach you how to tend to your garden. And one day, you will be tasked with going row-by-row in order to nurture that which is healthy while removing what’s toxic in order to make room for som’n better.

Aging is an inevitable but maturation is wholly optional. People conflate the two and think that they automatically occur in tandem. They do not. As you age, you have to do the work to become an emotionally intelligent, sincere, other-centered man, lest you become a burden (and not just a burden, but a threat) to someone, and more often than not, that someone will be a Black woman by virtue of proximity.

Just dating black women doesn’t mean you love and care about them. Having a daughter won’t magically open your eyes to the perils of Black womanhood. You have to do the hard, messy, non-linear work of unlearning patriarchy and misogynoir. Luckily for you, Black women scholars, writers, critics, etc., have been telling us everything that we need to know, ad infinitum, on how to become better men/friends/partners, and how to live fuller, happier, more fulfilling lives that don’t infringe upon the safety and wellbeing of those around us. We have to start listening and learning. I can’t stress this enough. And while doing the work, teach other boys and men around us, confront our family, friends, and coworkers.

While doing the work, don’t feel entitled to the labor of Black women around you. Don’t expect praise for being anti-oppression, it’s what decent people do. Be cognizant of the space you take up. Give your money to women around you doing the intellectual labor that aids in your growth. Don't shower Black women with praise for how “strong” they are and how “easy” they make it look because it does not benefit them to be praised for their ability to endure hardship/work themselves to the bone.

But also, do not get discouraged. Black men can do better, and be better. And when they do, and when they are, the love amongst themselves, and between them and Black women is freeing and revolutionary.

Your Pops

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