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My son is at a pivotal point in his life — a 2020 high school graduate. Before my eyes, he went from wearing anything I purchased to only wanting certain styles and brands. I lectured him for months about not letting his clothes and shoes determine his self-worth. I reminded him that his education and determination would get him further in life than his gear. Was I disappointed when he insisted on wearing a particular shoe or jersey? No. My admonishments did not fall on deaf ears. Reality hit me that he has his own opinion about himself. I had to give him space to grow and think for himself. I had to give him the freedom to be his authentic self.

With that being said, I began to ask myself, “What do I want for my son’s future?” Do I want him to be a mini me, or do I want to raise a man who can be a free thinker and a positive influence in his community? How do I keep him close yet allow him the freedom to be an African American male child? Daily, these questions weigh heavy on my mind but I realize that I must trust my instincts, trust what I, as a mother, have instilled in him and, last but not least, trust him.

With the recent cold-blooded murder of Ahmed Aubrey by two random white men and the intentional execution of George Floyd by indifferent police officers, I would be lying if I said I don’t fear for my son’s life every time he leaves the house. According to the LA Times, “Getting killed by police is a leading cause of death for young black men in America.” I remind him to turn the GPS tracker on in his phone. I encourage him to be on the lookout for people who are up to know good.

I used to bombard my son every day with all the dos and don’ts of looking suspicious. I told him to always rush home if anyone made him feel uncomfortable or if his friends were choosing to make bad choices in the neighborhood. I held my breath every time he left the house.

Eventually, he told me I was stressing him out. He actually said he felt like I didn’t trust him to be a good kid. He said, “Mom, I need you to trust me.” In my mind I thought, “Wow, did he really just say that to me?” But out of my mouth I said, “I do trust you, it’s the other folks out there who I do not trust.”

I am tired of racist white women weaponizing the police because they feel we should not occupy certain spaces. I’m tired of being told by racist white people to leave my country simply because I’m tired of their bull. I’m tired because I can’t believe that I had the same conversations with my son in 2020 that my grandmother had with her five sons close to 80 years ago. Just like she did, I want to hold my son close.

bell hooks once said, “When we drop fear, we can draw nearer to people, we can draw nearer to the earth, we can draw nearer to all the heavenly creatures that surround us.”

That is my prayer for our society — that my son and other Black men like him are no longer feared.

After my son walked out the door that day, I cried. I cried for all the Emmett Tills. I cried for all the Trayvon Martins. I cried for all the Eric Gardners, Sean Bells and the Amadou Diallos. I cried for the mothers who buried their sons way too early. I cried for the wives who had to bury their husbands, while being strong for their children. I cried for my daddy, my husband and my son. But most of all, I cried for our country who demonizes our Black skin. I cried hoping that one day we will finally be judged by the content of our character and not by the color of our skin.