IN THE WAKE of the Jordan Davis and Trayvon Martin murders, I am for the first time, concerned for my son’s safety. I have never felt this way before. I have always felt that my son would be safe no matter what. Not just because he’s covered in prayer, but because of the type of child he is.
From the moment he emerged from his mother’s womb, he was smiling. When the nurses said his grin was an involuntary reflex, I knew they were wrong, because my son didn’t just smile with mouth. He smiled with his eyes. He smiled in a way that let me know his joy came from a place down deep. In almost every moment, there was something merry about him. Even now, that happiness is still there.
That’s why I can’t imagine anyone viewing my child as a threat to be eliminated. But I have seen our children shot down simply because they are clad in black skin. That sad reality is the fulcrum on which my emotions turn.
But when the worry subsides, and I am alone with my thoughts, I know we have equipped him with he tools he’ll need to change the world. We’ve given him love. We’ve given him guidance. We’ve given him prayer. And perhaps as important, we’ve taught him that this is his country, and he must vote.
My son knows that this is his civic duty. Indeed, I have taken him into the voting booth with me many times. When I did so, I thought I was simply showing him how democracy works. But now I realize I was showing him how to survive.
In order for us to benefit from all our democracy has to offer, we must participate in the process beyond the presidential election, because while national contests are exciting, the decisions that affect us most directly are made at the state and local levels.
States and counties fund the schools that educate our children. States and counties hire the police officers who will either protect or victimize them. States and counties prioritize whether prisons will receive more funding than schools. And we decide whether or not we will participate in the process.
After watching so many of our boys gunned down like their lives didn’t matter, I’m glad I took my son into the voting booth with me. I hope he’ll always remember the lessons he learned by pressing those buttons: First, he can be anything he wants to be if he works for it, and second; his voice will only matter if he uses it.
Change for our boys begins must begin in our homes, but if that change is going to stick, it must happen in the voting booth. That’s the place where we can most effectively fight those who would do harm to our children. That’s the place where we can save our babies’ lives.
(Featured photo by Solomon Jones)