Raising black boys in America, let alone successful black boys, is no easy task. The state of racial oppression and inequality, biased profiling and brutality by police, disproportionally labeling black boys as slow or learning disabled in school, proliferation of violent crimes and drugs in the black community and other systemic damaging issues can make parenting black boys a nerve wracking and daunting responsibility.
My wife and I have four wonderful black boys. Recently, our youngest, age 10, was excited to ride in the front seat of our car with his mom for the first time. He strapped himself in the seatbelt, extended his arms to where his hands could touch the dashboard, and the very first thing he said was “Hey look Mom. I can put my hands on the dashboard in case we get stopped by the police”. Wow! I was shocked. That should not be the first thing a boy 10 years old says when taking his first ride in the front seat! He should have been just a kid excited about enjoying the experience. But then again, raising successful black boys in America requires giving them instructions on how to stay out of trouble, and moreover, stay alive. He learned from us instructing his older teenage brother who does drive on what to do if the police stop you. He will know when it’s his turn to start driving.
So how do you raise black boys in America against all odds? When the police, education, economic and employment systems have held black people back for so many years, how do you raise black boys to break these systemic barriers to succeed? I will share from my personal experiences, observations, and lessons imparted into me what has helped us to beat the odds.
First, raising successful black boys against all odds starts with building their lives on a strong and solid foundation – Jesus Christ.
Proverbs 22:6 in the bible says:
Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
A good local church with a vibrant youth ministry provides a safe place for black boys to receive Christ and be free to worship, to be trained and groomed in the ways of God, and for their God-given gifts and talents to be used and developed to reach others for Jesus Christ and to become an asset in their communities.
Second, parents of black boys must model the successful behavior and lifestyle that they want to instill in their black boys.
Third, raising successful black boys requires that their parents affirm them despite what society says about them or thinks of them. A parent’s positive affirmation consistently verbalized to their black boys, coupled with their active and visible support throughout their life activities and events, will make a lasting and life-changing impression upon them towards living a successful life.
Fourth, raising successful black boys requires that parents be transparent and real with them on the odds that they will face in a world outside of the home, and how to conduct themselves to avoid trouble and to stay alive.
Fifth, raising successful black boys requires that parents understand their positions of authority as the parent and exercise that authority in making parental decisions, correcting their black boys, and doing what is best for their sons’ success and what is pleasing unto God.
Last but surely not least, raising successful black boys requires that parents speak a vision for their lives, talk about it often, and help guide them to fulfill that vision successfully against all odds.
BY MICHAEL HOUSTON