Dear Miles: A Letter to All Black Boys and Black Girls in this "Post-Racial" Era

Dearest Love,

I regret the words I write to you even as I think them past my fingertips onto this page.  But as your mother and one who loves you dearly it is my shameful and disgusting duty to inform you that your life doesn’t matter.  On my shoulders lie the burden of explaining to you that because of who you are the world will hate what you may do and never attempt to ask why you are great.  You have been born into a world that has decided you are worth less compared to your white counterparts and worthless in their scruntinizing eyes.  Your life is not as valuable as others because of the consequence of your birth.

You, who are starlight captured in a glass on the shelf of my heart will be less valued than a dog in the minds and courts of this world and country.  And it is with deepest apologies that I tell you your skin color has stripped you of the right to exist as human in this homeland.  In fact, it has come to my immediate attention that the color of your skin has put your life in danger.  Many who walk this earth have the possibility of eminent peril before they depart; you, my joy, are guaranteed it. And though I wrote the name Miles on your birth certificate, you must carry with you other names: Kimani, Amadou, Sean, Ramarley, Oscar, Trayvon and now Michael. The list they want to put you on is long and soaking in blood and it forces me to spend my days praying for your survival instead of your success.

As you formed in my womb I was terrified for you; your tiny legs and arms molded themselves into the magic of humanity as I breathed, ate, and protected you all the while dreading the moment I would give birth.  With each flutter of your tiny body my heart broke, each kick solicited anxiety and each miniscule stretch turned my stomach as I knew the life I would bring you into and mourned it.  I made checklists with trembling fingers of the milestones in your life; the first time you would smile for me, the first steps you would take, the first time you recognized blackness meant otherness, the first time someone shamed you for your sepia tone, the first time someone would call you a nigger, the first time you would lose a friend to violence, the first time you would fight for your blackness and the first time you would be told blackness wasn’t worth fighting for.

My beloved, you, more than most, are pressed down by forces that would seek to destroy you. Statistics claim that you are more likely to drop out of school, to be incarcerated and that 72% of you have been born out of wedlock to a single mother.  For making you a statistic I am eternally sorry.  In the eyes of this country you are a number waiting in a line of misery and missteps. Each image of beastly blackness I am bombarded with daily makes me cringe and curse my mahaghony hue; were you born a whiter shade you may have earned a place in this society, a reason to hold your head up and a bounce in your step.  But alas, as a black woman I could not sheild you from blackness any more than I could shut out the Sun’s light on the world.  So it is with heavy heart that I explain the things I was always sickened to acknowledge. You will start life with the cards stacked against you being treated as criminal, troublemaker, loser, burden before they recognize you are a child, a dreamer, a visionary, and a superhero.

The world sees you as a problem and you must accept and embrace their hatred.  But now that you know your singularity, the things that have set you apart, you must smile.  When you hear the contempt spewed out of racist hearts and minds, you must laugh.  Never shrink, sulk or supplant yourself for ANYONE. You, my king, are royalty placed on this earth to rule it, not to submit to its whims. Revel in the malevolence directed at you because it is a sign of your power; it a sign of the fear that plagues their existence because they know what you are capable of.  Recognize that now that you are “other” you are limitless.  You have nothing to do in this life but exceed the limitations they place on you.

When you hear the names of your brothers and sisters who fall at the hands of apartheid and bigotry you will not hang your head in shame or slink into the silence.  You will get angry. You will boil over with ancient rage from ancestors ripped out of the arms of their mothers to the more recent wrath of mothers who loathe the lonliness of their single plight.  You will stir yourself into an uproar but you will not succumb to the drug of violence; you will not be lulled by the lullaby of savagery.  Instead, you will channel the spirits of Malcolm and Martin and Mandela and use your voice, hands, and words to teach the world how to treat you.

You will become so free within your own soul that the wounds inflicted upon your heart will have no fertile ground in which to grow; you will heal because you will know you are the manifestation of God’s creativity walking this earth and gifted to us for abundance.    It is your job and duty to embody greatness and talent as you move through life and it is your priviledge to be free.  The weight of their animosity does not have to be yours; you, my beauty, can choose your freedom even if they claim to have stolen it.   You will be so free that they cannot capture you; so free that the beat of your wings becomes  the rhythm their hearts match as they run to clip your wings.  You, my sweetness, will be so free and so strong that you will soar into places their guns and scorn don’t even have the capacity to penetrate.

So soar for me, my little one.  Fly above the influence of their venom and show them what it means to be liberated.  Become such a shining example of unadultered enormity that they have no choice but to direct their adoration and adulation towards you and delight in your presence.  Teach them what it means to be infinite and know that you are not worthless but worthy of love and bounty.  Know that I am here and will always be here to breathe life into you as I did in the beginning and to hold you when your heart hurts, mend you when you feel broken and mold you when your life is out of shape.  But I will also force you to be your powerful self and I cannot sheild you from the world’s arrows; I can only teach you how to let the piercing of your skin become the provocation of your strength.  I love you, with a vastness that is unfathomable.  Bask in that love and let it warm you when the world goes cold.  You are beautiful, capable, strong and gifted; never forget it.  And when they try to rob you of those memories, gird yourself with my love and show them why blackness has survived through torment.  You, my love, are loved and an embodiment of love and never let them convince you otherwise.

With a Love that in Incomprehensible,
Mommy

5 thoughts on “Dear Miles: A Letter to All Black Boys and Black Girls in this "Post-Racial" Era

  1. RSW says:

    Hey Morgan, I know we haven't talked since we finished high school, but I'm really glad for Facebook today in particular because it allowed me access to this most touching and powerful post. I wouldn't normally comment, I rather prefer to admire in silence, but a comment one of my students made today in class obliges me to do so. I am currently teaching ~80 Panamanian 11th graders about racism (among other things) as we read To Kill a Mockingbird. Today, one of my students asked me “So this [Tom Robinson's trial] took place in 1932, right?” I responded that it was a work of fiction set in 1932, but that it was to a large degree representative of reality at that time. He continued “so that was like 30 years before racism ended, right?” I was shocked. We have talked about the Civil Rights movement extensively; they have written essays about Malcolm X and his impact on the country and the world, we have listened to and dissected Dr. King's “I Have a Dream” speech, we have compared South African apartheid to the situation in Israel, we read about and debated the Trayvon Martin case last year, and yet for some reason I failed to predict or notice, they seem to think that racism is over — that it ended with Dr. King and Mandela. I didn't know how to respond other than to stammer that racism hadn't ended; that it had only evolved into something perhaps more dangerous. Another student said, “yeah, but at least now it's illegal to discriminate like that.” I was at a loss. Too shocked to know how to respond so that my students could appreciate how little they (and I) understand about systematic and lifelong prejudice that shapes the course of lives. Class ended, I graded some stuff, went to the grocery store, then came home and read this. I am posting this not only to share how much your post impacted me, but also to ask your permission to use this in class as part of a discussion about what racism and discrimination look like in 2014, and what role my students have in this arena in the future. Would you mind? I promise to cite appropriately. Thanks, Rebecca

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  2. Morgan Cuffie says:

    First off, hi and how the heck are ya?! I hope things have been going well for you and I'm so excited that you reached out. It would be an absolute honor for you to share my writing with your students; when I wrote it I was simply trying to put words to the turmoil I felt. To have these thoughts used as a teaching tool is an amazing bonus. It makes me feel quite grateful that you thought my words were powerful enough to be used to stretch young minds and as a fellow teacher I know we don't choose what we feed to our students lightly. Thank you so much for thinking highly enough of my work that you would share it.

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