My two grandsons, age four and six, had a great time eating cookies and running around our yard.
They had no idea that a historical moment (gay marriage) was taking place and they were right in the middle of it. Neither one of them understand that I love and married their original grandfather.
Adults have more than a few opinions about my life and about the best way to raise the younguns.
I often have doubts concerning my ability to positively influence these youngsters. My doubts come and go and are centered around how I can best teach and mentor these precious souls.
As a black gay thinking man, I often know, see, and understand too much.
Critical thinking and well -thought-out boldness, self -definition and well-calculated risk taking is both a curse and a blessing.
How do I guide them towards love and brilliance that occurs as a result of self acceptance and striving for personal excellence?
Is there a way for me to encourage and not judge or “fix” perceived flaws or mishaps?
With so many conflicting messages surrounding black maleness, it is going to be difficult making sure that my boys become powerful men of substance. My biggest challenge will be protecting their innocence and encouraging others to believe that black children have innocence and it is worth protecting.
When popular culture turns out images of young , black maleness, I cringe and many times have cried knowing that I and those that look like me live in a world that has so little regard for our well being.
often cry thinking of what my sweet boys and several men have had to endure because of fear based and misguided assumptions about black males and their gifts.
This morning, I witnessed a beautiful young black male already pumping out the rap music whose basic premise and catchy refrain stated that N#$@@#@ ain’t shit.
It was only 8:15 in the morning.
This is how this young brother starts his day. I’m not shit and neither is anyone who looks like me.
I was forced to put on Stevie Wonder’s Songs in The Key of Life to combat that vulgarity and violation.
What is going on culturally when the innocence of youth is not seen or worse stripped and then resold (repackaged) to us in ways that are so visually stunning that we forget our upset and the desire for rebellion.
Season Three of the Wire broke my heart when all of those sweet boys were constantly violated, pimped and used.
I struggled when several white friends failed to see the disturbing narrative that this provided.
Starting at a very young age, we all get the same message: we are not to be emotional creatures; we are only our bodies (physical selves).
Which leads to: Your body is not your own and can be manipulated for consumption for any reason at any time.
I purposely hug and kiss my little boys all the time so that they will know the experience of a proper, non-exploitative touch.
It is important that they learn their bodies deserve care and respect.
The bullshit about teaching them toughness and not showing weakness makes me want to puke.
We will have no shortage of chances to be challenged in the world in ways that will require some deep seated understanding and unrelentingly powerful usage of our full mental and emotional capacities. bell hooks refers to this resource as being concerned with and committed to “optimal emotional health”.
This is what I strive to provide for my young ones.
How do I get them to understand that folks will have all kinds of shit in their heads about them and yet they must continue and have every right to self define based on their talents, personal goals and passions?
Kids don’t listen to what you say.
They watch and emulate what you do.
If they are gay or bi will I be blame? If they are straight how do I combat values of the larger community that fosters homophobic thinking and behavior?
Everyday there is a news story that promotes irresponsible and violent social behavior among boy and then later men.
There are rarely any visual representations of great men doing great things.
Until they leave my home, I will share my joy of reading, Shakespeare and bell hooks.
I will encourage them to try out and lead with “soft power”.
I will teach them to love and treat their bodies well.
I will constantly support them in their efforts to honor and revere their own dark bodies and those of others. I will discuss all systems of oppression and intricately explain how they interact and are connected.
I will not believe that I am the only one who is able to lovingly instruct them in acquiring and implementing new resources that will assist them in staying sane, moving forward and being in love with themselves unapologetically.
Anthony Carter is a writer and cultural critic. Among his books are the mental health strategies found in Unfettered Mind: The Importance of Black Male Mental Health, Strong Stuff: Tips on Surviving and Thriving Despite being Unemployed, a plea for social change regarding the fear and lust of the black male body in Kiss Me Kill Me: Trayvon Martin, Black Male Bodies and White Supremacy and his latest book a collection of Science Fiction Stories, Rules of Reality. He recently launched Burn the Manual his weekly column with the Good Men Project. You can visit him online here.