Explaining Baltimore to My Six-Year-Old Son

Editor’s Note:

With the latest sickening domestic atrocities spinning incessantly in the 24-hour media cycle, the Baltimore protests almost seem like ancient history. Almost. At the time, we received an essay from a black father and husband about the challenges of discussing the protests―and the racial state of affairs in America―with his two small children. We wanted to wait until Father’s Day to publish the piece in its original, heartfelt, minimally-edited format. Little did we know that the events that inspired our contributor to share his story would be superseded by other, even more gruesome events in such a short amount of time. Still, the sentiment remains the same, that to be black is to be a problem in this country. Doug’s essay, then, is no less timely.

Ernest White II, Editor Emeritus

April 28th 2015, 6:45 pm. Aerial images of Baltimore are on the TV screen. Cars turned over and engulfed in flames. Angry black Americans yelling and screaming at the police. Frustrated and irate citizens of Baltimore throwing bricks and trash cans at the police. Looters raiding a local CVS. Fresh after crossing the threshold of my front door, I walked into the family room to the sounds of reporters in their “breaking news” lingo trying to convey what was happening in Baltimore. I noticed my children Adrian, 6, and Ava, 2, with their eyes glued to the screen trying to process and make sense of what was going on as they were eating dinner. I looked over at my son, Adrian, took a deep breath, kneeled down beside him and began to explain the current events to him. In the process of explaining to him, I realized that as he grows, these types of talks will become more common. See, Baltimore is significant to us because my wife was born there and has family there. I was just in that area affected a few years back. So this story hit home and brought forth the reality of injustice and the frustration that had spawned out of it.

After explaining to Adrian (who addressed my explanations with a few questions and a few head nods, as if he fully grasped what I was discussing with him), I turned back around to the TV and saw how Pastor Jamal Bryant was being ridiculed about his thoughts on the riots while the media tried to put words in his mouth. It was another image of a black man trying to get his point across while resisting to fall into the trap that the media was trying to set him up with, trying to get him to admit that the blacks were wrong overall. He simply kept saying that he did not condone the violence, but understood the frustration of his people towards injustice. Again, this is stuff I have to explain to my kids, and most importantly my son as he grows up as a young black male.

I noticed my children Adrian, 6, and Ava, 2, with their eyes glued to the screen trying to process and make sense of what was going on as they were eating dinner.

I have the privilege of raising two kids during today’s times. Being a father is something I take pride and joy in. My responsibility as a father and leader of my household is to cover my family and shield them from harm the best way I can. I also understand that I will have to explain the brutal injustices that we as African-Americans have faced (and still face). I pray that I explain it in such a way that makes my kids feel proud of their heritage and inspires them to rise above any challenge they face in the future. I am elated at the fact that my children were born during a historic moment for the United States. Adrian was born two months before President Barack Obama’s first term and Ava was born a month before his second term. All my children currently know is that our president is a black man. At this moment, they don’t know what it took for him to get there in terms of generations and years of oppression. I will have to present them with the knowledge to provide context about who they really are and that they should be proud in spite of.

My job as a dad is more important than ever. The knowledge I have acquired through education, reading books, inspiration of friends and family stories will have to be relayed to them in honest moments. I realize that my legacy began when they were born. There is more to me than simply being a provider. I have to pour into my children daily and mold them the best way I can into respectful citizens as I usher them into adolescence and adulthood. Day in and day out, I strive to be one of the best examples of a man who has placed his highest priorities (God, family, career, friends) on automatic as I continue to open the box of purpose and persistence. This is simply my ode to my children as I do my best to be an example of a man living life navigating through the ups and downs that come my way.

Personally, I don’t condone the violence and destruction that took place in Baltimore, but I understand the pain and frustration generated by our justice system. I know I’m not capturing everything in this one sitting. I’m just writing from the top of my head and the bottom of my heart. I have a job to do and that is to effectively raise a young man (and young lady) of color during the uncertainty and of this world we live in.

By Doug Bryant, Jr.

Doug Bryant, Jr. is a cyber security analyst by day but a writer/influencer at heart. Graced to be the father of two children and a husband to an amazing woman, he is laid back, optimistic, and hopes to influence the world from a gentleman's perspective.