Dear white friends—I need you to love my sons as they grow into black men
Jacalyn Wetzel

Hey friend,

Do you remember me? It's been a while, I know. I sat behind you in civics in junior high.

Do you remember me? You were my base on the cheer squad, and once you caught my head just before it hit the ground after a long day of stunting.

You don't remember? Our boys played together on the soccer team in 4th grade.

We drank wine out of solo cups in college together.

You totally remember. My vernacular is so similar to your own that it's a running joke that I'm not actually Black, but I am.

And so are my boys.


Friend, I don't get deep enough with you and it's not your fault. I just see the quick twist in your face that quickly screams "I'm uncomfortable" when I broach the subject of race.

Discomfort I can deal with most days, but some days it's more than discomfort. Some days it's disbelief, and that hurts more, so I don't tell you.

I don't tell you the fear I feel on a daily basis as my boys continue to grow. I don't tell you that all on their own they've developed a healthy fear of the police, and even the school resource officer.

I don't tell you that my oldest son has said "the SRO treats the Black kids meaner. It gives me anxiety."

I don't tell you that even though we are careful not to watch these awful videos of unarmed people getting shot, your children are showing them at school, and my children have noticed the theme.

I would never tell you that as they shoot up to be as tall as I am, soon to tower over me, that my mama heart breaks for reasons you'll never fully grasp.

I'd never tell you that at the ripe age of 14, my son "fits the description," and his brother is not far behind.

I would never tell you that, because you can't imagine that being truth. You know my boys. You know their hearts. You know they're the sweetest, most respectful and helpful children you've met. The thought of anyone seeing them as a threat just does not cross your mind.

I love you for loving my boys, I do. But I need you to love them enough to demand change so parents that look like me aren't afraid our children aren't going to make it home.

I need you to love them enough to not just see them as your sons, but to see all boys that look like them as your potential sons.

I need you to love them like you love your own sons, because this world doesn't. Love them because my mama heart cannot handle another man being shot that looks like my brothers, cousins, uncles, and sons.

Love them because my son has said the words "I can't breathe" when talking about how seeing a police car makes him feel.

Love them because my big brother likes to jog.

Love them because my younger brother has the best contagious laugh you've ever heard.

Love them because my baby brother has the sweetest soul, but it takes him a while to say things. He gets excited and his stutter gets in the way.

Love them because the movie American Son is so many Black mothers' realities.

Love them so it does not become my reality.

Love them and demand America do the same.

You know me. I'm your friend.


Jacalyn is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, writer and a mother of 4. She runs the blog Stop Yelling Please and has been featured in publications such as HuffPost, Today Parenting Team, Filter Free Parents, Her View From Home and more. She's an advocate for justice and believes everyone has the power to be an agent of change

This post was originally published on Jacalyn Wetzel's blog, Stop Yelling Please. You can read it here.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less