What shall I tell you? Shall I tell you your body is of equal value to all citizens? Shall I tell you your rights are protected and racism is now a scourge banished from society? Shall I tell you that you are entitled to freely act and live as a teenaged boy in this country, dance playfully with minor mischief, and speak with a quick immature tongue? Shall I tell you that your body is safe and your mind is valued and your future is free?
If I tell you this, these words will be perjury before God and an assault upon the memory of our ancestors. I must share a hard truth with you today. The truth is you are not safe. You are not valued by certain others because of their persistent melanin phobia. There is nothing wrong with you, but there is something wrong with adults who hold on to myths created to maintain power and control over people kissed by Nature's sun. You do not yet have the right to be a frolicking teenager like other children in our community, for your boisterous actions might be misconstrued by people who refuse to remove the racialized lens from their soul.
As your father, I am bound by duty and love to share this truth, but it is not the only truth you must know. What is often forgotten and deleted from your primary and secondary curriculum are these simple truths: You are a beautiful boy of color, a child of African descent, a magical creation of God, yet under threat by a mythological dragon birthed into existence by hate, theft, and Freudian fear of your great spiritual power.
These days of recorded "Black Death" will tempt your spirit to run to the room of despair and play the chords of cynicism. Do not shy away from the pain of this moment. Do not become a modern pessimist afraid to take action or one who believes hope is nothing but a fairy tale. Dare to lean into the storm, son, and draw strength from the history you hold and the faith you profess. Not the faith others claim you are to profess, but the faith where justice, protest, intellect, wonder, grace, and righteous fury meet with fists raised to do battle with dragons fashioned by old men.
Never let your anger become unchecked rage, scratching at the lining of your heart. I tell you often, you are loved and designed with purpose and immeasurable potential. You carry a lineage of women who refused to bow and men who dared to live. Never forget who you are and the legacy you hold. The world we live in will attempt to steal your essence and drain away every ounce of your beautiful life from your soul. Never allow the external noise to disrupt your inner life. The practice of silence, meditation, prayer, reflection, community gathering, and healthy grieving will serve to strengthen you on this journey.
I am sorry I must write this letter to you, but it is the duty of every Black father to share the stories of this battle with his son. You are the solution to this nation’s problems and the prey of dying wolves who want yesterday to always be tomorrow. You and your generation are the gifts God has sent to victims of an old story. You are our joy and you are "their" fear. It is unfair that I must share this with you, but your capacity to handle the weight of this truth is evident through your spiritual maturity. I shall always be with you, though it is my prayer my physical body shall precede you in death. This is the silent request of all parents especially those of us who still wait to fully sip from the cup of democracy. It is my prayer that I will leave you the best fuel for this struggle - my love. I love you and shall always fight for you and with you. Be well and be strong my son. Better days are ahead if you choose to fight with your head and heart.
Otis Moss, III is an activist, cultural critic, writer and Senior Pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, IL. His son Elijah is a high school honor student, writer/poet, athlete and part time family comedian.