As a black man, I’m considering not having kids because I fear society won’t value their lives

I’m in an interracial marriage, but I still fear how society will see my future kids

Growing up comes with a lot of expectations. And some of these expectations challenge your convictions and who you are as a person. Back in September, I got married to the love of my life. It is important to note that my wife is a blue-eyed Irish girl whose family is very, very Catholic. I am in an interracial marriage and neither of us nor our families could care less. One thing that is very important to Catholics, as evidenced by the 80 or so “cousinettes” as she refers to them (her cousin’s kids), and her nearly 50 first cousins, is having children. Now that we are married, the inevitable conversations around children are beginning to happen. She talks about them like we already have them. And yet, after the recent events where teenager Jordan Edwards was shot in the head by Balch Springs police officer Roy Oliver with an AR-15, or today’s event where Tulsa Police officer Betty Shelby was acquitted of the charges of first degree manslaughter in the killing of Terence Crutcher, I’m not 100 percent convinced that I want them.

In my family, my mother was always the authoritarian, despite my father being an actual police officer. She is what you would describe as…. assertive. She never missed a parent teacher conference, a school event, or a PTA meeting. Many saw this as her being a concerned and involved parent, which in many ways she absolutely was. But she had an ulterior reason for her involvement in mine and my sister’s school activities. The area in which I grew up, a suburb about an hour north of New York City, was and is, exceedingly and overwhelmingly white. My mother told me a story about overhearing the principal of my elementary school refer to me as “that little colored boy.” This was the early 90s. So, she was there to let everyone know that messing with me and my sister because we were two of the five black kids in the school was strictly off limits.

She did her best to raise my sister and I to be good, respectful, polite, upstanding members of the community. But as I entered my formative teenage years, I noticed the level of stress and anxiety, especially around me being out and about, increase. I also noticed what I now know to be a state of almost constant fear which she easily concealed to the rest of the world. This fear arose from the knowledge that society would soon begin, if it hadn’t started already, to see me, her first born child, her baby boy, as a threat. And because I would be seen as such, the value of my life and the value of my freedom would decrease greatly in the great marketplace of our society. I remember seeing my mother sob deeply when the police officers who beat Rodney King were acquitted, and again when the officers who murdered Amadou Diallo were also acquitted. I realize now that she wasn’t crying for them, she was crying for me. Sadly, I don’t know if she has any tears left to cry.

When my wife and her friends were imagining what their kids would be like growing up, I’m sure she never imagined the possibility that they would be gunned down in the street by people sworn to protect them. I’m sure she never imagined that the fear that society has engrained in people would trump the lives of her children. I ask her quite frequently if she is sure she wants to have black children. I promise her I won’t be mad if she says no, and I mean it. Because she loves me, she says yes. I don’t envy her. Because she will soon have a small taste of the bitter flavor black women have experienced since before the inception of this country. Her friends and family, who she leans on so much for support and guidance, unfortunately will not be able to relate.

As for my mother, I am grateful that she gave me her love, support, wisdom, and money. I am grateful that she lay awake at night, waiting up for a son that may never come home. I appreciate her role in helping me defy the odds to become what I am today. But after watching what she went through, is it wrong to have doubts about wanting the same thing? I hope to one day be the father of beautiful black children, but right now the fear of how society will see them scares the shit out of me.

Columbia University