What would MLK do?

MLK_2015Q:  I read Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me and frankly, I am disheartened by his accurate portrayal of black men.  I am an African American dad with twin boys aged 12.  How do I remain hopeful?

A: I, too, was moved by Ta-Nehisi’s vivid perspective of being a black man in America.  When I saw this big teddy bear of a man with the dulcet voice present at the Kennedy School of Government, I was left with more questions than answers, but I didn’t doubt for one second the authenticity of his unvarnished perspective.  His message resonates with the reality of our times.

Some herald Ta-Nehisi as today’s James Baldwin or Malcolm because of the clarity of his message.  I have no doubt that, like Baldwin and Malcolm, Ta-Nehisi would be a welcomed Martin Luther King “foot soldier” for social revolution and justice.

As you consider your sons’ future, I hope that these questions are useful:

  • Do you (and your family) view the world as hostile to you?  If yes, what conversations can you generate to have a more nuanced view?
  • How well do you read/respond to cultural cues (“micro-aggressions”)?  What practices or insights are you sharing with your sons?
  • Are you sons learning negotiating and mediating techniques in school?
  • Is your social network diverse—age, cultures, nationalities, gender?
  • What activities are you providing to broaden your son’s perspective, experience and life skills?
  • What conversations do you have with your sons about the events on the news, specifically the Black Lives Matter movement?  Note: As you know, the format of Ta-TaNeishi_2Nehisi’s books is a letter to his son—a conversation with his son.

I feel strongly that conversations can change our society for the better and that diplomatic solutions will make the world a safer place. Why? I share Dr. Martin Luther King’s point of view:

 “People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.”

Dr. King would close his remarks by encouraging us to fear not, hold fast to each other and remember the1100 especially the following:

12-year-old Tamir Rice, Ohio

17-year-old Trayvon Martin, Florida

17-year–old Laquan McDonald, Chicago

18-year-old Michael Brown, Ferguson

19-year-old Quintonio LeGrier, Chicago

22-year-old Rekia Boyd, Chicago

25-year old, Freddie Gray, Baltimore

28-year-old Sandra Bland, Texas

43-year-old father of 6 Eric Garner, Staten Island

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