When my son turned one, it was an extremely emotional time. I composed an email to my friends and family. In it, I alluded to the joys of being his mom, while also dealing with the fact that I have to raise a black boy/man in North America.

A girlfriend of mine, who has two kids from a previous relationship with a black man replied (open and honestly) with the following questions:

So here’s my question you mentioned that you are nervous about raising your son to be a good black man in today’s society? Do you not think that things aren’t better for him in today’s society, being black? I mean my kids are black, and I don’t think I have ever thought about what it would be like to raise two mixed kids in today’s society. I just think about the man I want my son to be. I never think about colour. Ever. Do you think I should be nervous? Is there something that I am being naive about ? It’s Interesting to hear this from the other side. I think I’m almost looking for advice? Is there something I need to be discussing with my kids that I as a white person don’t know ??

I think it’s important for her to ask these questions in a setting where she won’t be judged for it. I know there are many women with mixed kids not thinking about the future and the extra responsibility they have having brought a black kid into the world.

But I am NOT a black man. I do not, and likely will never fully know or understand all the nuances and weights that come with being a black man. That is why I reached out to men I know that might be able to articulate it for me. I am a big proponent of not pretending that I can speak for someone elses life.

In light of the recent happenings across America in MO, NY, LA and more – it’s even more important to me to share their voices. It’s rare that they are asked to do so, and are able to do it freely without worrying about the #wellactually and the #yesbutwhatabouts…

Twitter hashtags like #IfIWasGunnedDown and #IGotTheTalk break my heart because just by being black – this is their every day existence. For my Canadian friends – while it may not be as deadly or pronounced – it still happens here. More than we ever admit.

This project was something I didn’t just want to throw out there. I wanted to make sure I treated it with the respect and attention it deserves. So while the media is trying to convince the world of their worth – I wanted to showcase black men in their own words.

The initial response has been amazing, with submissions coming in from all around the world.  They are posted, un-edited every Wednesday on nowawordortwo.com until I run out of stories. Part of me wants to run out, and part of me worries I never will.

I wish it wasn’t necessary to do this. To ask these questions. To try to come up with answers. I wish the straightening of the spine and automatic defense wasn’t something that black men have to carry. That distrust has to be planted like a seed in the young.

When I originally asked Twitter a year ago, their thoughts, these were some of the replies:

@adept2u – There’s  a static in your psyche others cant hear feel it’s a siren You ignore it mostly but it erodes you in time

@theblackmurse – that you always gotta make sure to keep white people at ease if you want to succeed. your profession calls for you to be a scary black man, but that can backfire.

@MalikPanama – the burden is all the intersections with class, sexuality, relationships, etc. that pigeon-hole our complexities as men

@BrazenlyVirile – would start off by explaining that the deck is already stacked against you. you have work harder and smarter just to be on a level playing field with your counterparts.you’re sexualized, fetishized, feared, and admired (for things that usually aren’t of substance). when you do succeed, its almost always assumed its because you had “help” or a “handout” because you know we’re lazy. we’re deemed criminals, athletes or entertainers by popular media. there is little room for any other type of image.

funny thing is besides all that i wouldn’t want to be anything other than a black man.

As for me, a few weeks after my son turned two – all I can do is raise him to be a good human being. I will carry the burdens of his skin color and gender as long as I possibly can.

Or I can at least try.


Do you think there are extra burdens to being a black man or is that just a matter of perspective? Is it easier to be a black man in certain parts of the world over others? Do you think non-black parents should learn of these nuances before they have/adopt black children?