A gift to my Outriders

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I often find aspiration in my sons that is necessitated for all that I pursue in my life and scholarship. Every day, my boys completely illuminate my world in every way. I love them more and more with every breath that I take. Throughout the boys’ maturation, I realize that their growth has mandated my own, and I am better for it. I’ve found such divinity in mothering my sons; there’s this innate omniscient ability to be so selfless for my children, to protect them relentlessly — there isn’t a higher calling than caring and protecting their innocence.

As the boys have grown, I’ve learned to contend with letting them go for their growth and keeping them close for their protection. These are primary contingencies for mothering Black boys. How do you ready them for a world that detests their Blackness in all its nuanced ways? A world that will attempt to smother them with fear and hatred, simply because of the Blackness that they inhabit. Anti-Black racism is “cancerous, impermeable, and unmalleable,” as my mentor, Dr. Nikki Jones, has taught me. 

Teaching Black children how to champion for their rights, their lives, their breath, their humanity is one of the most vital abilities that’s demanded of them to survive and even thrive in their lives. The redundancy of this fact isn’t unique, nor is it new for Black mothers. Commemorating our Black history and our Black ancestry in the shortest month of the year doesn’t alleviate the magnitude of the reality of being Black in America. 

Honestly, the celebration of Black History month barely offers the “justice and respect” that we, Black Americans, are owed, that our history is owed and that our legacies are owed. Constant assaults of Anti-Blackness have wounded our dignity. In this context, trauma is defined as an emotional wound that has intensified throughout our lives of enduring Anti-Black racism. This harm has deeply wounded us. We continually experience this suffering by sheer force from these historical, generational and systematic structures of power. So, how am I supposed to teach the boys how to function in a society that is completely riddled with Anti-Black racism when I haven’t learned to do so myself as their mother? How do I explain to the boys the audacity that a residential wall has more value than Breonna Taylor’s life? How do I explain the verdict that was delivered in the case for Breonna Taylor? Any attempt to rationalize injustices like these is excruciating to have to make sense of and with integrity at that, in the faces of our Black children.

I chase thoughts like these around in my mind, ceaselessly. For us, Black mothers who attempt to raise Black children successfully, I feel that we could find solace in our cathartic experiences of always loving our Blackness twice as much as it is hated. We’re charged with loving our Blackness while in the jaws of those who ignorantly hate and enact harms through implicit bias, micro-/macro-aggression, violence, terror and as far as extrajudicial killings and hosts of various means. I wonder if the extreme pervasiveness of racism allows for lessons in “Loving Blackness as an act of Resistance”? As one of the canonical authors of African American scholarship, bell hooks teaches us.

All I can say is that when it comes to mothering my sons, I have no choice but to try to impart the wisdom that I’ve acquired in hopes that this will offer them liberation without curtailment from this white supremacy system and culture. One day, I’ll have to tell the boys that you’re not responsible for helping heal your oppressor; don’t allow yourself to be used in that way, and just because you’re Black young men doesn’t mean that you are the leading authority on Anti-Black racism. I need the boys to know that they shouldn’t allow themselves to be ripped apart by those who engage in cognitive dissonance related to the perpetual harms had by Black Americans. Don’t overextend yourself to those who won’t acknowledge our reality, Son; denounce their privilege and the freedoms it grants them, especially as it relates to you. They should use that privilege to intercede on your behalf regarding Anti-Black trauma. If they cannot respect and honor that, then you owe them nothing, especially not yourself. 

One of my beloved elders, Millie Burns, recently said to me, “We wake up Black, live Black, we will die Black. Racism is everywhere all the time and cannot be eradicated. Some continue to react oppressively and monstrously because they’re fearful of what they don’t understand, that fear is dangerous and lethal.” But, I would remind the boys that here with me, with us, you are free! We celebrate and pay homage to our Blackness in all that we do. We’re proud of the legacy of survival, resilience, innovation and accomplishment of our ancestors. More importantly, I’ll always proclaim to my boys that all twelve months are our Black History month, in tandem with this imperative guidance: “Son, in the world, you gotta always keep your armor on, baby.”

Amina Coco Jones is a Bay Area native and an undergraduate student at UC Berkeley pursuing a degree in race and law while raising two teenage boys.