Friday night I attended the opening of QuestionBridge: Black Males at the Brooklyn Museum. Friends Jesse Williams and Aryn Drake-Lee are co-producers of the multi-city exhibition, and the assembled crowd spoke to the importance of their project. I found the exhibit fascinating, and sat for a long time soaking in the faces and messages of Black men speaking their hearts and minds. My father passed away when I was 16 years old, and I come from a very strong matrilineal family, so the opportunity to hear their varied perspectives was particularly eye-opening. They talked about Blackness, they talked about interracial dating, White women, families, prison, spirituality, homosexuality, and love. They talked with candor and with fervor, and they talked to each other. Most poignantly, I felt they were talking to my son. I am raising a young mixed-race boy, and seeing these men of all different shades and backgrounds made me reflect on what that means in America today. Instead of seeing Reagan give the State of the Union, my son sees Barack Obama, another "curly-top" just like him. That in and of itself is huge. But there are still the outside perceptions, the stereotypes that seek to erode his character and self-esteem, and the traps that so many boys like him might become ensnared in. Growing up is hard, harder still to be so black and blue. It made me so thankful to live in the neighborhood we do, where there are other kids who look like him and parents who look like my husband and me. It made me thankful for our families, his godparents, and our friends, who will be there to offer him guidance and support.
There will be many questions and challenges we will face in the coming years, but none more vexing than: How do you raise a man?