While scanning through my Facebook statuses recently, I noticed a reoccurring theme from many of the African American parents with sons. They want their son to look “cool”. So much so that they purposely dress them in expensive name brand clothing that these children will undoubtedly grow out of within months. We display pictures of our sons posing in poses that they either learned from watching an adult or were purposely positioned in the pose by an adult. It has become ubiquitous for Black parents to teach our sons slang before they barely have a grasp on how to speak the English language properly. We want our little Black baby boys to be pint sized versions of their fathers. Therefore by default, our sons possessing home grown swag is all too necessary.
While it may appear to be innocent there are deeper repercussions at play here that these parents either don’t want to acknowledge or are too ignorant to face. By teaching your sons to have “swag” you are in fact working against their success. Having swag will not keep him out of jail. It will not assist him in finding a well paying professional career or business to start. Having “swag” damn sure won’t stop him from being murdered. In fact it might do the complete opposite on all accounts.
Other cultures do not care as much about someone having “swag” or looking cool. White parents do not invest nearly as much time into assuring that their children dress cool, speak cool, and behave cool. Sure, the child might turn to mainstream pop culture sponge at a certain age but their parents see this as a stage and not a prerequisite for their adult life. They don’t take it as seriously as Black parents. You know what White parents drill into their children? How to keep good credit. Why you should own your own home. How to navigate the pitfalls of drugs, lewd activities and miscreant behavior. These are the components of child rearing that White parents tend to focus on much more than Black parents.
Tony Montana and ‘O-Dogg’, as full of swag as they were, didn’t even live to enjoy their lives because along with the promotion of having swag came harmful elements that their parents failed to instruct them on how to avoid. This extends to the real world too. Think about how many young Black men you know who have lost their lives while embracing the appearance of being cool.[pullquote_right]We all know better; it’s high time we do better.[/pullquote_right]
When our little Black boys go out into the world and mix with people of various races and only know how to be “swagerrific”, or how to look and talk “cool” and nothing more, they are immediately pigeonholed by those in our society who not only do not value swag but don’t even understand it! By focusing on meaningless activities and philosophies we are doing our children an injustice. They don’t know how this world is. But as parents we do. We know the disadvantages and inequalities that are going to be placed on them as African Americans and more specifically little Black boys who will someday grow to be Black men. Being cool doesn’t prevent any of the hardships they will embrace, more than likely it will either inspire resentment or alienation which may inadvertently lead to more conflict. We are installing disadvantage on top of a predetermined disadvantage into them. Unfortunately, what many Black parents forget to do when molding their child with this “swag” is to also install practical values such as how to speak without slang or dress appropriately. To know their surroundings well enough to adapt to the situation and come out on top. Folks, I am talking about the all important balance that every little Black boy should have in our present day and age. We all know better; it’s high time we do better.
Now, don’t get me wrong, there are some Black parents who are wise enough to know that the world is much bigger than your neighborhood and that your child might want to venture out into it one day. Therefore they have to be able to become chameleon like in today’s society if they want to go past the limitations that are placed on them. However, there are far more parents, (especially the young Black parents) who do not see the value in this. This is how generational wealth is passed on. Not from how “hard” you appear to be. The overcompensation comes from a void of knowledge that neither the government, schools or church are supposed to provide; as parents we are the first and last line of defense for our children.