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Black Community Opinions

Local Voices: An Open Letter to Our 13-Year-Old-Grandson

Dear S. Jr.

Your Nana and I write to you today that you may understand some of the unfair obstacles standing between you and success in your life. These challenges have over the years been placed specifically to trick you, trip you, catch you up, and get you into “the System.” While you are very smart and may already know some of these things, we want to make sure that you fully understand the consequences of your words and actions.

First off, as a 6’4” large Black man, you scare white people. It’s not you personally. It’s not even your fault. Americans have been conditioning themselves to be afraid of you, even trigger-happy where you are concerned. Because of this, it’s very important that you always speak clearly, as we taught you, saying, “Yes, sir,” and “No, sir,” to your elders and especially, to the Police. We know it should not have to be this way, and, that you will see others sometimes being disrespectful and getting away with it. Grandson, you don’t have that luxury in this America, today.

Even though hoodies are warm, “cool,” in-style, and all the rage, we are asking you to NEVER use the hood portion of your sweatshirt in public. It makes white people nervous; plus, it has become one of the leading leadings to police blotter descriptions and in the lead-on media news coverage. Let everyone see your big gentle respectful smiling face, even those who aren’t as respectful of you. These simple actions may not seem “cool” or as if you are being “the man,” but they may, more often than not, save your life and allow you to walk away from an encounter alive and unharmed.

Make sure when you are working out or outside walking, listening to your ear buds or headphones that you don’t have your hoody on, because deaf kids are being shot because they didn’t stop when called because they can’t hear. This proves you can be doing everything right, nothing wrong, and still not come home one night.

At some point, you will undoubtedly be repeatedly stopped, questioned, profiled, harassed, yelled at and probably called the N-WORD by law officers. How you deal with these things determines, in many cases, whether or not the situation escalates and gets worse, or it subsides and goes away. You may feel that you lose face in the short term, but you will live another day and that is always the end game goal. Remember that sometimes those on the biggest power trips just need to think they are superior >, when the reality of their actions show them, as less than <. Above all, hold onto your temper and that smart mouth; make it your God not to react. What you said last summer, “I could get shot and killed for wearing the “Black Lives Matter” Shirt you got for me,” was very telling. Always be the non-violent, respectful, Dr. King-type-of-individual at all times, but specifically when protesting or wearing that shirt. Do not reinforce the false narrative violent story that is daily told, re-told, and fablelized through the media reiterations to try and create an urban legend. To stay alive and out of trouble, you have to choose wisely. Make sure when you get into a car, you are not riding with anyone or anything that can cost you your freedom or cause you to end up in jail. If you have any doubts whatsoever, don’t get in that car. We don’t care how far the walk is, or even if it’s late and raining. Staying Alive is the only name of this game. You are growing up, Grandson. As far as girls are concerned, the key is to always be respectful. “No,” means “No!” Gentleness is a sign of strength. Never try to bully a woman. That’s both childish and chauvinistic. It is much more rewarding to earn the true beauty of a woman’s sacred trust, via respect. Treat each young woman as if she were your Mom or your Nana. We are so proud of the smart good student you are and the difference-making young man you are becoming. Thank you for letting your grandparents share a few important thoughts with you. Love, Grandpa Sean and Nana Kim P.S. Please write us back a real letter on paper, not just an email or text. Thank you. Sean C. Bowers is a local progressive youth development coach, author and poet, who has written for the New Journal and Guide the last eighteen years. His recent book of over 120 NJ&G articles detailing the issues is available at and he does do large scale solutions presentations.

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