Open Letter to College Age African-American and Hispanic/Latino Males (17 to 35)

Dear Son:

I hope you will allow me to call you son. I know you are not really my son, but you could have been and still could be. You could have been the son we lost in miscarriage some 15 years ago. You could be, if you find in my daughter the kind of person and women you can build a solid life and make your dreams a reality.

I find it necessary to write you because I have grave concerns about your future and in actuality my own future as well. The news lately has presented some serious challenges in the way of crime activities that seem to make a point to include you and people like you. The most alarming concern is that the crime comes from the same people you ‘hang’ with or you want to call “your boys”. It presents a problem for me, because of this danger; I will not have you to be proud of as I grow older. I will not have the bragging rights to talk about your accomplishments and how you are a “chip off the old block.” My friends will not be able to comment on how much you remind them of me in my younger days. I will not have you to prepare my grandchildren to love and respect the legacy that was given to me and I tried to pass along to you. What a waste and what a tremendous tragedy that one of “your boys” will and could cause all this destruction and interruption of our legacy.

When I was your age looking forward to success in my life, I do recall my friends wishing only the best for me. I recall the men in the neighborhood pointing with pride that “that boy is going to make it.” I didn’t know where or how I was going to make it, but I knew I had support and I was not in fear of “my boys” taking me out of life’s game or even pushing me off my life success track. Even when I served my country and was stationed in Southeast Asia during the sixties and many of my friends perished in Viet Nam; I had no fear of my success. One of the things while serving in the service, we found a way of bonding together by calling each other ‘Brother’. The greeting of the term “Brother” meant so much to each of us. We knew that the world was not always kind to people of color, and we knew that lynching’s and mob actions were actually taking place in the United States. We knew we had to support each other and in doing so making sure we mutually supported each others’ survival.

What a wonderful feeling it was to return home and start looking for that old girl friend or the joy of finding new love. It was great to get back to normal life and receive the hugs from momma and grand-momma, which encouraged us to live a good life and find a great wife. Not one time did we ever believe we were pursuing ‘bitches or chicken-heads”?

Why do you and your boys insist on calling each other ‘dogs’ and keep informing us that the expression should be viewed on the same level of my generation’s “Brother”. When we expressed the words, it was for spiritual respect and genuine hope that we would have individual and mutual success in life. The term ‘dog’ is not a term of endearment. I am aware that your generation professes love for animals, but yet you hear about dog fighting and animal abuse related to gang-ism, macho-ism and your generation’s insensitive-ism! So, how can you in good conscience continue to refer to each other as dog? Brother was not a term to mask the negative tone of the term nigger or niggah. In fact, the term Brother was our way of making sure we would never have to face the derogatory term to describe a base and dehumanized concept of our manhood.

As a father of a daughter that I love and cherish, I know I would want to throw any man in the deep part of the river who referred to her as a bitch or a chicken head. The sounds of such words are offensive and demeaning to any sane person’s sense and sensibilities. I know there are some females who endearingly refer to each other as ‘bitch’, but that admonishment is for a letter to my daughters.

Son, I know you to be for the most part a caring and concerned man, but I am concerned that you have not done enough to correct the behavior of “your boys”. If there is a correction to be done, it must be by you. Me and my boys are considered out of touch or not able to relate to the issue your boys face. Of course I and my boys see the issues in a different manner, but I want you to not think of our every conversation as me taking you to task for one failing or another.

I know any future happy existence for us all is tied to your grasp of what I am presenting to you today. I have this great concern that if you don’t speak up or take action of leadership in this ethical battle for ideology of respect and positive character, that all will be lost.

Finally, I want you to take a hard look at me and put yourself in my shoes and at my age and my space in time. I want you to really look into my eyes and my heart and know I love you even if I am fearful of your future. You can put my fears to rest by taking the challenge I present to you about your leadership role for you and your boys. Please know that there are many young boys who want to be like you. These boys are not much different than you when you expressed the desire to be like me, and I expressed the desire to be like the men who were a part of my life. Maybe I have not done all I could to instill the responsibility of life to you as I should, but I am willing with your help ready to correct what ever error I may have done in this life process. I need you to accept my requests to be more then you are right now and never fall below any goal or legacy that was set before my time and space. Know son that I love you with all my heart and I expect great things from you. There is never failure in a hard and serious try towards success. Thank you for being my son and thank you for what I know you will do!

By Lorenzo Clemons

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