I am sad to read the resurgence of articles of black parents who are forced to teach their sons the Black Male Code. We think we are free and racism is a thing of the past but the truth is we are only 1 step away from where we were in 1955. There may not be signs on doors and water fountains that say ‘No Coloreds Allowed” but we as black people are fully aware there are places we should not go and are not welcomed. While white parents are teaching their sons to get an education and be a good provider for their families, black parents are teaching their sons to survive society. For those of you not familiar with the Black Male Code, it reads like this:
“Always pay close attention to your surroundings, son, especially if you are in an affluent neighborhood where black folks are few. Understand that even though you are not a criminal, some people might assume you are, especially if you are wearing certain clothes.
Never argue with police, but protect your dignity and take pride in humility. When confronted by someone with a badge or a gun, do not flee, fight, or put your hands anywhere other than up.
Please don’t assume, son, that all white people view you as a threat. America is better than that. Suspicion and bitterness can imprison you. But as a black male, you must go above and beyond to show strangers what type of person you really are.”
Dr. King’s dream was that all men be treated as equals. That we be judged by the content of our character not the color of our skin. Unfortunately, our character is judged based on color of our skin and the materials on our backs. This has put our young men, and our young women as well, in great peril. Not heeding the rules of the code is costing us our husbands, brothers, uncles, nephews, cousins and fathers and ultimately our future.
We live in the false comfort that race doesn’t matter but the reality is it does. We think that because the KKK no longer rides to our homes in the middle of the night to hang us from trees then we are safe and free. The truth is we are not living the truth. Just ask the family of James Craig Anderson of Jackson, Mississippi who was intentionally run over and killed by a white teenager in 2011 for no other reason than he was a black man. He was killed instantly then his dead body was robbed and beaten. That may not have been the tree of strange fruit but it was a lynching all the same. Mr. Anderson did not heed the code and it cost him his life.
The Trayvon Martin verdict has raised the racism flag again. While we are angry and upset now, in 2 months we won’t think about it and lull ourselves back to our false comfort that we live in a modern American where we all love one another… until the next Trayvon Martin.