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Questions to my son: What Does It Mean to Be Black?

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These are my thoughts, yo.

Questions to my son: What Does It Mean to Be Black?

jasmine banks

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Every year since Isaiah was old enough to understand I've made a routine of asking him questions that the world will try and give him answers to. I want him to think about things right now, before extreme bias or outside sources can persuade him. I want to teach him to be a critical thinker about things, that at face value, are confusing and hard. I've been continually amazed how Isaiah answers my questions. I've asked questions like:

What if a boy wanted to marry another boy?

Hey. Do you think girls aren't as smart as boys?

What would you tell someone who was making fun of a person who had an arm missing?

Isaiah usually answers with a sense of frustration. His expression curls up and he rolls his eyes. "Mooooooooom," he moans, "Boys can marry boys because you just marry who you want to marry and kiss! Do they love the other boy? Because you get married because you love that person most, but only as adults because kids don't get married!"

It is as simple as that to him. He has also answered:

"Girls can be so much smarter than boys and they are better at being friends. The girls in my class tell secrets and share things."

"People have missing arms? Oh! That is weird. I would just help them if they only had one arm, because it would be hard to clap." 

And so I ask hard questions about his life as a person of color. I want the echoes of his mind to have the right answers when people try to debate his value after he was shot unarmed. I want him the echoes of his mind to have the right answers when people comment that he is "so smart for a Black man" or "he doesn't look black". I want him to know that what it means to be Black  is about more than what his peers have been raised to believe. So I asked Isaiah:

What does it mean to be Black. This is what he still believes about his cultural and racial identity. I want him to hold on to this as long as possible, because it is a beautiful and innocent belief that the rest of the world doesn't share about us.