I awakened on Sunday morning praying for America.
I prayed that I, as the black father of a black son, would be able to forgive, to heal, and to move forward.
I prayed that I, as the black father of a black son, would be able to look ahead in love rather than staring back in hate.
I prayed that I, as the black father of a boy much like the late Jordan Davis, would not be consumed with rage like Davis’ murderer, Michael Dunn.
I prayed for the state of Florida, a place where Dunn, a white man, was convicted only of second-degree attempted murder, even after admitting that he sprayed a car with bullets, killed a black boy in cold blood, and drove away with impunity.
I prayed for Florida, a place where George Zimmerman could claim celebrity status after escaping conviction for the murder of Trayvon Martin.
I prayed because I know Florida’s legacy of hating black boys goes well beyond Dunn and Zimmerman. I prayed because I know Florida’s awful truth.
My father grew up in small-town Florida, and while he saw kindnesses big and small as a boy, he also endured the kind of racism that our boys face in Florida today.
As a nine-year-old, he made the unforgivable mistake of walking into a store through the front door. Everything stopped as a sea of pasty white faces stared at him, outraged. They demanded that he enter through the back.
My father never forgot that day, and I’m glad he shared that story with me, because now I know how to pray.
Hidden, but still there
I pray because the same back-door mentality that existed in 1955, when my father walked into that store, continues to exist today. Only now, that mentality simmers beneath the foundations of a system that feigns equality while delivering anything but.
I pray because the same bigots that would discriminate against a little child a generation ago have passed on racism to their progeny.
I pray because the so-called equality that America so proudly touts has eluded our black boys.
Their lives do not have equal value in America.
If they did, we would do more to address the fact that black boys continue to have some of the highest high-school dropout rates and lowest literacy rates in the country.
If they did, we would not sit by and watch zero tolerance policies push black boys out of school.
If they did, we wouldn’t see one black boy after another gunned down with impunity.
That is the truth. And until we muster the courage to stare that truth in the face and speak against it, work against it, even pray against it, that truth will remain a constant. And so I pray.
I pray that America will join me in taking a long, hard look at itself. I pray that we will realize that our black boys are in danger long before they face men like Dunn. I pray that America will join me in making sure our country’s justice is equal.
But if America will not join me in having that conversation — if America continues to believe the lies it has told itself regarding equality — then I will seek out those who want to make change. And together we will grab hold of our boys, we will grab hold of ourselves, and we will work.
We will work in our schools because that is where our boys are given short shrift.
We will work in our homes because that is where our boys must learn to be men.
We will work in our communities because that’s where our boys must learn to be leaders.
Because even if our country doesn’t believe our boys have value, I do. And it’s time to put that belief into action.