To my Unborn Son,
As I lie here on my prison bunk, staring up at a ceiling that I know is there but cannot see through the darkness. My neighbor has stopped screaming. He does it in his sleep, every night. He does not know he is doing it. I have my ideas on why, but they are just ideas. I suspect if I were to ask him he would not give me a straight answer, so I have not. Now, though, I can think.
I was having a conversation earlier today with a buddy of mine. It was on a topic that I have heard expressed multiple times by numerous individuals: Inmates who are parents say the hardest part of being incarcerated is being away from their kids. Not being there to see them take their first steps, or take them to their first day of school, educate them about sex, or see them go to prom seems to be difficult and take a toll on a parent.
As you know already, son, I am writing this before you are born. I have no children as of now. But these thoughts and more swirl around in my head on a consistent basis. I wonder what advice I would have for you as you grow up. I love you even before you have taken your first breath of life. You will be my future, my greatest legacy. One who is a by-product of all the pain and struggle of his ancestors.
You are a descendant of the first man, of a slave, of an Amerindian in the Caribbean, of an island culture where people are so filled with pride they remark, “God must be a Trini”, of an immigrant of the U.S., of a college graduate, and of a felon.
I added this last one recently. Some say, unfortunately. I once did. But, now I know better. Still, if I can prevent my hardships from ever becoming yours, I want to do that. There is no manual to teach you how to be a Black man in America, and immigrant, nor a son, let alone being all these things rolled into one. You learn these things, many times by trial and error, until you reach proficiency. Don’t be offended by my blunt statement, but you, my Unborn Son, will not have this luxury. It pains me to say this, but during your trials and errors, you will not receive verbal warnings or ‘slaps on the wrist’ for infractions where your non-black peers might. No, your judgment will have already factored in the color of your skin and the stigma attached to it. Just? No. Accurate on the system we live in? Absolutely.
These letters are not intended to prove this to you. There are countless examples of ‘Black Lives Matter’ movements, disproportionate incarceration rates, and the number of illegal minority immigrants because the qualification standards required, and level of scrutiny imposed when migrating from a non-European country does not equal that for individuals coming from European countries. No, my intent is far less controversial, leaving less room for debate. I think our community leaders have all but exhausted talks on these issues, and their appeals for justice in society have fallen on deaf ears. I, on the other hand, have chosen to heed Alexander Hamilton’s words of caution, words stating that countries follow their interests, not their sympathies. And, just like a country following its interests, I will follow my own.
I am interested in you, my Unborn Son. I’m interested in you navigating your dynamic self in a society that would rather ostracize you for being unique rather than embrace you. Contained in the following letters are lessons I learned from my own trials and errors. I wonder how much smoother my journey could have been had I bypassed these experiences. Maybe I could have been more of an asset to this world. Maybe I could have been more of an asset to this country. Maybe I could have been more of an asset to my family and friends. Maybe I could have been more of an asset to you, son.
These are lessons and experiences that are unique to black men. A woman cannot teach you these, not even your mother. As much as she will love and try to shelter you from the ills of the world, not even she can shield you from these experiences. Right now, as my mind and thoughts are clear and pure, I write these letters to you, my Unborn Son. May you not only survive but also thrive. May these stories and insights of your father’s personal experiences, which you will inevitably encounter at some point, help you on your life’s journey.
Daddy Loves You, Son.