The Deadly Challenges of Raising African American Boys

By Dawn Dow

In the aftermath of Baltimore’s 2015 civil unrest responding to Freddie Gray’s death at the hands of law enforcement, the New York Times published an Op-Doc video, “A Conversation About Growing Up Black,” featuring young African American boys and teenagers reflecting on their daily experiences navigating gendered racism- discrimination that is based on both race and gender. More recently art has served as a reflection of life. The hit comedy Blackish, which centers on an African American upper-middle class family living in a predominately white neighborhood, took a dramatic turn by depicting the family’s discussion of the constant stream of shooting deaths of young unarmed African American boys and men and how to protect their children from the harsh realities of race relations in the United States.These stories underscore an increasingly undeniable truth: African American boys and men’s experiences are strongly influenced by living in a society that often greets them with hostility, fear and contempt.

This is true regardless of class background.

Being middle class is usually accompanied by access to good schools with resources, neighborhoods with little crime and protection from harsh treatment from police, teachers, and the general public. Through interviewing 60 African American middle- and upper-middle class mothers about how they raised their children, I learned that those raising sons were concerned with ensuring their sons were not perceived as criminals and remained safe. These mothers believed their sons would have to continuously challenge assumptions that they were poor, uneducated, violent, and criminal – and assert their middle-class status. Where other middle-class families might see security, these mothers saw potential threats. Continue reading “The Deadly Challenges of Raising African American Boys”