Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
The ‘times they are a-changing’ they sang. It was an anthem of a new generation calling for better leadership, truth, justice and civil rights. And nearly 60 years later here we are. Decades have passed and change is inexorably slow. Painfully slow for the succeeding generations of black sons and daughters.
“Our moment is too brief. Our bodies are too precious,” wrote Ta-Nehisi Coates in a book published as a letter to his young son. A brilliant writer, Coates grew up in Baltimore “always on guard” for the physical harm threatened by both the police and the streets. “This is how we lose our softness,” he said. “This is how they steal our right to smile.
“All my life I’d heard people tell their black boys and black girls to be ‘twice as good,’ which is to say ‘accept half as much,’” said Coates. “It struck me that perhaps the defining feature of being drafted into the black race was the inescapable robbery of time, because the moments we spent readying the mask, or readying ourselves to accept half as much, could not be recovered. The robbery of time is not measured in lifespans but in moments.”
Time is wasting. There is a system of oppression built in our society that has been tragically obvious to black Americans for generations.
“An America that asks what it owes its most vulnerable citizens is improved and humane. An America that looks away is ignoring not just the sins of the past but the sins of the present and the certain sins of the future,” wrote Coates.
A proud father, Coates tells his son: “I had not been prepared for the simple charm of watching someone you love grow.” But soberly he informs him, “you have been cast into a race in which the wind is always at your face and the hounds are always at your heels. And to varying degrees this is true of all life. The difference is that you do not have the privilege of living in ignorance of this essential fact.”
It is past time for white America to live in ignorance. “There exists, all around us, an apparatus urging us to accept American innocence…and not to inquire too much,” explains Coates. It’s “so easy to look away and ignore the great evil done in all of our names.”
This Father’s Day we urge dads to stand with their black brothers to make an effort to learn, to understand and to wake up to the obstacles facing black Americans. What is the ‘apparatus’?
Take the Father’s Day challenge. As a gift to your radiant sons and daughters ask yourself: What is this apparatus that surrounds us? The lessons have been accumulating and they’re as fresh now as they were in 1960 or 1860. Prick up your ears, read a book, like Coates’ Between the World and Me, for example. Open your mind. Explore, listen to a poem, a song, or a podcast. Or watch a video. By all means feel free to share with us.
Boys look to the behavior of their fathers as “a mold in which their own manhood might be cast,” said Coates. Make an effort. Time’s wasting.
We are citizens of the world. When we’re not pontificating we make apparel. Visit here for info on our Father’s Day 30% off sale. And let us know if you’d like us to include a complimentary copy of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book.