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you are absolutely not crazy. and you bring up points i've thought about but not really contemplated. where we live - there are lots of aa people. but the white people are moving in and gentrifying. the neighborhood boys do get hassled by the cops. this just isn't something i'm going to have to worry about as much with z - but when/if we have a black son - it's going to be a much different world for him. it's definitely intimidating as a parent.


I met a woman at a writing conference who works the crime beat in a larger inner-city, mostly African American neighborhood. She said that some of the women are driven literally crazy by fear for their sons.

Then I remember this Oprah years back where a white woman was pontificating on a panel about teaching her sons to question authority and be self-actualized and this black woman stood up from the audience and said (paraphrasing), "When MY sons go out into the world, I have to worry about them being killed and so MY sons cannot safely question authority." And the white woman just sputtered and stammered and refused to concede this point. It was a strong illustration of the ignorance that can come with privilege.


You are absolutely justified in your fear. My boys are now 19 and 17. They get hassled by the police, and threatened by gang members on public transportation, and we live in the suburbs of Sacramento! My 17 year old wants to join the military, and a family member said "better for him to face action in Iraq when he has a gun too than to get shot in the streets". Sad, but its still a fact of life for young black men.


Great post. I think about this stuff all the time. I want to prepare my boys for the attitudes they will face too. I am FAR more strict with them being polite and answering in full sentences than I ever was with my oldest (white, bio) son. Of course when I was young I was a lot more hippy -ish anyway LOL. But now I know it is important for my black sons to always present themselves well because they will not get the benefit of the doubt that my white son gets. It's not fair but it is life.

Buddy Boy is very shy. He hates looking people in the eye. He hates saying hello and goodbye. I am going to have to find a way to get him over these things so he can present himself with ease. I have so much to learn from black mothers about how to raise sons. It really is a matter of life and death.


You are not crazy and you are not being dramatic at all. I think about how my son will be affected my society quite often. It makes me nervous, even as a black mama to a black son. I just happened to read an interesting article by actress Sheryl Lee Ralph in Essence Magazine, about raising her black son in a very prestigous neighborhood in Hollywood, how her son is always on guard. We all worry about our black sons. I think the most important thing is too try to make sure your sons have Black male role models, the sooner the better, if you haven't already. Both my husband and brother have agreed that their role models; fathers grandfathers uncles and the like, were very important to them.

Erin O'

You're not crazy, you're just aware. We don't even have our children yet, and I think of these things a good bit. My family got into a conversation about racial profiling over the holidays, and I was chilled to the bone by the assumptions and acceptance there is of this in a supposely liberal household. I'm not sure if they were always like this and I just never was alert to it before, or they're getting it out of their systems...

It is also hard to influence a child to behave differently than he/she would naturally -- ie shyness, looking people in the eye, etc.

sigh. Very good post.


You are NOT crazy. The whole world is crazy. I say this to you now in this comment to your well-put post, but this is also want I am trying to convey to my black sons now-- even though they are only 2 years old -- I want them to learn early on and know deep down inside that *THEY* are not crazy, that the *WORLD* is crazy... so that when they confront exactly the types of things you mentioned in your post, they will be able to (hopefully) fall back on that basic understanding... and HOPEFULLY this (as well as "arming" them with confidence, and knowledge, and awareness, and positive-presentation-of-self, etc....) will carry them through all the craziness that we of course WISH they wouldn't ever have to face. I truly believe that anyone who thinks you're post is "crazy" or "dramatic" has no clue what's reality re: race in the contemporary U.S. Being "color-blind" is NOT an option for our families. It just simply is not. Yes, I'd be raising my boys MUCH differently if they were bio/white children. But if I just ignore the reality that they/we are faced with, then I'm doing them (and the world) a huge disservice. I have zillions of thoughts about the subject of your post and we (my husband and I) talk about these issues constantly. Thank you for writing and for blogging! Yours in the struggle,


You are not crazy. In fact, you're so insightful and wise and grounded in your thinking. My boy is only 6 months old and in the last few weeks I've been stymied by how overwhelmed I feel about his future. I thought I was mentally prepared for the responsibility. But now that he's here and he's becoming this little person I just want him to have the best life and I fear I can't make guarantee that, or anything. It's true, he'll need to be charming and aware and perceptive at a very young age--- for survival. I want to raise a good man. A strong man. A respectful man. And I need to raise a man who understands the most difficult realities of his world before he really experiences the best of what his world has to offer. Its a quandry. And I appreciate your perspective.


I think about this ALL THE TIME. I worry so much about how Nico will be treated if he gets pulled over. Recently in our town, a Hispanic youth was killed by three white teenage boys when he told them he didn't know how to score drugs for them. It's shit like that that keeps me up at night.


Not. At. All. Crazy.

I have wondered whether the fear of brown boys is what leads there to be much greater "demand" for girls in intl adoption situations where parents are allowed to choose.

We've been trying to make a lot of Big Life Decisions lately - about where to live - and I keep trying to figure out what the best scenario will be for my little Guateboy.


As usual, you're thinking is right on target regarding race! So very insightful you are. You are right to be worried. As parents of black boys, we all have this same worry.

We worry about this same thing. We live in a small rural town where the black population is sparse. My husband has been stopped more than once for mistaken identify because he's black. He has always been one to question authority, going to far as to file a grievance against the police, and thankfully nothing has ever happened. I'm not so sure how that would play out in a larger city.


I would like to recommend a book to you, from the "seminal work" titled "Black Rage" back in 1968. The author is Price Cobbs and the book is called "My American Life: From Rage to Entitlement." and the link is here: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0743496221/ref=nosim/librarythin08-20

Price gives a wonderful history of the black experience, including a description of why so many black families, for years, have raised their children to speak ultra politely, to be extremely well groomed, and to show and expect respect from others. It gave me a very good perspective.

Also, it made me think that more black young men out there SHOULD have a sense of entitlement, so kudos to you for raising young men who will feel entitled in our society, and will be able to deal with social situations with grace.

Role playing and being able to use mannners wisely and strongly is also a wonderful way to raise your children. I wish you great good luck.


Ooooo ... I think you're my new favorite person online.


I'm jumping into this one a little late. Just wanted to say thanks for the interesting brain food. We have a daughter adopted from China and are heavily considering adopting from Burkina Faso.
We live in Europe where there aren't that many blacks around but I'm from the US and we just might move back in the future. So this topic is certainly being discussed at home right now.
No one walks by a little Asian boy and clutches their purse but a little black boy... It's really a shame that we have to think about how to 'harden' these boys up to be able to face the world later on.

Krissy Poopyhands

Tres insightful, as usual. And as you're being all together and realistic and reasonable, I'd just like to add that it isn't fucking fair. It just isn't fair that these lovely kids have to fight every time they leave the house just to get where they are going. It isn't fair.

Your boys are so sweet. It must be gutwrenching to think of anyone being anything but lovely to them.


You are definitely not crazy. Nat is not even two and her cuteness is already wearing off for some white people who occasionally give us dirty looks (for no discernable reason). I can only imagine if she were a boy, how short-lived her cuteness would be.

A few weeks ago, I was pulled over for rolling through a stop sign, and Nat was in the back. I told her, "oh, it's a police officer! We have to be very polite and friendly to police officers!" and I modeled polite, coorperative behavior and he gave me a warning because Nat was being all sweet, too.

But a week later, I was in an airport and when a uniformed man (might as well be a "police officer" if you're two) threw away the hair lotion Nat had been given as a gift, I threw a fit. I very loudly complained that this was a stupid thing that didn't protect anyone, and the election was over so why the "amber alert" and on and on like my privileged, cute white girl self and totally blew it.

I felt really bad about that afterwards. Because while I hope she stands up when authority is being stupid in the future, I want her to make a conscious choice about it, knowing what the score really is. If I have a boy, I am going to have to learn to be much more thoughtful about these things in front of him, too.

The first week I lived in D.C. (1995) a 16 year-old boy was shot and killed at point-blank range through his car window by a cop. The kid had no weapons, no record, was waiting outside a friend's house to give him a ride. The cop mistakenly thought he was getting a gun when the boy moved his hand. Anyway, that was the story. I don't want that to be my kid!

I think the welcomer idea is great. Nat is already a natural welcomer, extrovert that she is, but I'll keep that in mind in a more formal way in the future.

Julie P

Wow. I am so glad I just found your blog.


I've quoted this post over at http://ethiopia.adoptionblogs.com
in a post I'll be runnning this weekend. As we are talking about adopting boys in 2008, it is newly interesting to me.


Mary, mom to many, including 2 from Ethiopia


so, it's not okay for people to "stereotype" your black boys, but it's okay for you to stereotype white cops?

that tends to be a problem with you "liberal--accept all people at all costs" people, you preach it, but you don't live it.

get down off your high horse, raise children who are law-abiding and respectful and you won't have to worry that one day a cop will have a need to subdue them.


The comment by Louisa just reinterates what we have to go thru to keep our Black boys safe. Just like there are some people who really do believe there is no racism, there are people that believe all Black boys/men have to do is be law abiding citizens and they will never be harmed. The unarmed Black groom that was shot at more than 40 times, or the Haitian man in New York that was shot and unarmed are part of a long list of Black men/boys that have been killed for no reason-other than being Black. My husband has been searched (mistaken identity), harrased and had a white woman clinch her purse-he is a doctor and probably has more money than her, but that is what I will have to train my three Black boys to deal with. It can be overwhelming and it makes me sooo angry and a little sad that instead of feeling some type of empathy some of my sisters on this planet try to act like WE ARE the crazy ones for teaching our children to beware of people that want to hurt them because of the color of their skin.


I worry about what my Black sons will face someday as well, and pray that I am up to the challenge of raising them in light of this. You're right, right now they tend to be a novelty to whites, or super cute, etc., but as they grow I know I will see the stereotyping begin.

Our nation has such a long way to go in terms of race issues, although we've also come a ways if you think how relatively young our country is. There will always be hateful, ignorant people who act out of fear and pride, I suppose the key is guiding our children in the right way.

Louisa I don't think anyone is stereotyping White cops, I think it is just a fact that many people are truly suspicious of Black men. Personally I hope I'm always accepting of all people.

Thanks for posting this!!!


Great posting and real food for thought. I don't think you are being paranoid at all. Your sons are blessed to have parents as thoughtful and proactive as you are. I just wish you didn't *have to* teach them to be so careful. BUT, teaching ALL kids good manners is critical to their success as adults. I posted a couple of examples of black male stereotyping on my blog.

p.s. your boys are beautiful!


Hey, we all need to be a little crazy to survive in this crazy world. I live in inner-city Houston and have a two year old son and have the same fears and concerns as you do and I'm a SWF. As mother's we all need to raise our son's to be mindful of the world around us, but not closed off and calloused. My son learns by my example more then my words. I treat all people with dignity and respect. Blessings to you and your sons.

donna green

Im aa a mother of a black son raised by me, he is now 26yo. , member of airforce reserve, has a job making 60,ooo dollars a year, is a college student working on his degree in engineering, lives alone. in 2003 he was ina niteclub where a shooter came in and shot four people, killing one, my son was wounded, but survived.until then I thought I had done all the right things, now I know that the odds are against him regardless of how well he was brought up and I fear for his life.


I have three adopted black sons. We live in Indiana and I am a fool. A fool to think that teaching them to be polite, to be controlled and measured in their mannerisms and actions. I am a fool because none of the matters to the poisoned mind of the people that look at my child and only see "black". My oldest son is 8 and is seeing a Neuropsycologist for a brain injury. We have fought for two years to get him the help that he needs at school. The school insists that he has "behavior" problems only despite the medical diagnosis. I thought that everyone had to fight this hard for their child until I talked to my white friend who has a child with similar problems. She got help the first time that she asked. You see no one cares if you are black, polite and well mannered...if all they see is "black".

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