September 25, 2014

A Letter to My Younger Brother...

The following letter was written by a young Black millennial to his younger brother. Their generation is experiencing life in America quite different than those of past generations. But, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Past generations had Emmett Till (1955) and Medgar Evers (1963). This generation has Trayvon Martin (2013) and Michael Brown (2014).

After reading this letter written to his younger brother my hopes for the current and following generations of Black men and women in this county has been uplifted. He demonstrates in this letter that he has a good understanding of the problems. More importantly, he shows that he has the intellect, determination and desire to help seek equal justice for all Black People in this nation.

We need this young man to continue on his quest to gain equality and justice for all. After all, it will be HIS GENERATION who has the mission to recover all of the progress that we had accomplished, as a race of people, during the last 60+ years. Some would say that the nation is backsliding on those accomplishments and that progress ... but, after reading this letter, I'm encouraged more than discouraged!

NOTE: This letter was written on July 13, 2013 ... just moments after Trayvon Martin's killer was declared 'Not Guilty' in Florida.

Dear Brother,

I have included family on this email. I want them to know that I have done my best to adequately arm you for the war taking place outside our doors on you and young men that look like you.

You are a wonderful, strong Black man, and I love you. I love you so very much. I love us, all of us.

Dear brother, I would fight for you at every opportunity. I would die for you. There is nothing that you could ever do, or that anybody could ever accuse you of, which would change just how much I love you. I am so proud of the young man you are, and the man that I can see you becoming. You are an honor student who loves to solve Rubik’s cubes. Not just the basic Rubik’s cubes, but the 5x5 and 6x6. You are learning both Mandarin and French. You excel in math and science, and have ambitions of attending Stanford University and becoming and neurosurgeon, satisfying your curiosity of the workings of the brain. You are a phenomenal athlete and a physical specimen who works hard to maintain a healthy lifestyle, abstaining from drugs, alcohol, coffee, fast food, and overindulgence of sweets. You love your mom and your family.

You are everything that this country has asked you to be; everything that qualifies as success. But you are Black. You are a young, Black, man. And you are a threat.

Your voice is deep, like your father and your grandfathers, commanding attention and respect. You are tall and will grow taller. You are strong, and will only become stronger because it is in your genes. Your family has tried to protect you from the realities of the world by professing the equality of all men in the United States of America. We have convinced you that despite a history of racism and a plethora of contemporary examples, with hard work and dedication you can achieve anything hear, and you’ve believed us.

However, tonight I am convinced otherwise. It is possible for you to reach the lofty goals you have set for yourself. But it is incredibly likely that the brightness of your star will intimidate others. And if not the brightness of your star, then the complexion of your skin most certainly will. For that, you can be shot dead in the streets. Not just by police. By anybody.

Please believe that you, and I, your cousins ... we are all Trayvon. We are Black men. Anything in your powerful hands can be construed and depicted as a weapon. The concrete beneath your feet for example, is a weapon. Your two Black hands themselves are weapons. The base in your voice is like the vicious bark of a rabid dog to so many who could never imagine that you were an amazing human being. Far too many people out there don’t see you as a human being to begin with, let alone amazing.

Brother, you have asked to get your ears pierced. You feel this is an expression of your identity. To this, I say no. I cannot and will not allow it. I wish I could. You should have the right to express yourself as you see fit. After all, you’ve earned it. You’ve worked hard, and I have no doubt that you will continue. You are incredibly polite and respectful of both elders and peers. If your complexion was lighter, and your hair straighter, and you could pass for something other than the Black young man that you are, then maybe, just maybe, you’d be safe.

But you are a strong Black man in the United States, and I am not willing to lose you, so you can express your right to make a fashion statement. I pray others continue to show that you can’t judge a book by its cover. I hope that men of color, men with tattoos and piercings, men of all backgrounds continue to do amazing things and show the world that their assumptions about people are incredibly ignorant. I hope people of all colors around the country will dawn hoodies as a symbol of solidarity with all those who have been unfairly judged by a court of law, or a court of public or individual opinion. But you will not. Such actions will draw visibility to the issue and eventually bring about a real conversation about race, fear, and the legal system in America.

But I will not sacrifice my brother to this battle. The cards are already stacked against you. They have been since birth. Tonight, we were reminded the degree to which this is true. One move too quickly or one glance too long is all it takes. To lose you would be more than I could bear. But to lose you and to watch your killer walk free from punishment ... that would absolutely break me. You will not willingly provide another reason for them to take you out. You and your powerful blackness have provided enough already. I am sorry that I cannot always be there to protect you.

This letter brought to mind a video of famous Black actors that was shared during the height of the Trayvon Martin tragedy. I think it is appropriate to share it with you now:

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