Sunday, July 14, 2013

To My Beautiful Brown Nephews: Keep Your Hoodies Up

Went to sleep heartbroken. Woke up heartbroken. And I cannot help but think of my nephews halfway across the globe, whom I miss everyday. Who ask me why I live so far away. Who ask me, is New York City part of the United States? Is Brooklyn part of New York?

How can I defend America to these beautiful boys now? How can I defend my choice to live in America, as an American, to these beautiful boys whom I long to hug every day. Especially today.

My godson, Gael, has always been independent. From the time he was six years old, he would walk ahead of us not wanting to hold the hands of grown ups. Not wanting an adult companion when he'd go to public bathrooms. His mother has already had the conversation with him that went something like Not everyone is a good person, Gael. Some people are not that nice. Some people will see you alone, want to pick you up and do bad things to you. Some people will kidnap you and take you away from your family.

He is a beautiful boy who likes his fashions, he has asked me to bring back kicks with skulls, camo sneakers and hoodies for him whenever I've come home. And he is not the only nephew who is into hoodies, they're cool cats, they are all into the urban gear. How do I explain to them what happens to brown people like us in America, especially brown boys who have their hoodies up?  Especially black boys who walk with hoodies up in the night?

America, how can I defend you now when a killer goes free and the blame is assigned to the young boy who cannot choose his skin but can choose to wear his hoodie up? When we Skype today and they see my tearful eyes, how do I begin to tell them this sad story? I will start by telling them I love them. I will start by telling them they are beautiful.

I will tell them to keep their hoodies up and stand as beautiful brown boys, proud.

I will tell them Trayvon Martin is loved. I will tell them he is beautiful. I will tell them Trayvon did nothing wrong.  And I will tell them that America has wronged a young black man and broken all of our hearts. Trayvon Martin is now America's son, and we have wronged him the way we have wronged a litany of our beloved black and brown boys.

But I cannot lie to them. I cannot defend you to them, America. Not today. Not with this broken heart. Not with all of Travyon's innocent blood on your hands.

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