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Real Talk: What Does It Mean to Raise a Black Boy?

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Charlize Theron
Recently I read that Academy Award-winning actress Charlize Theron has adopted a child — an African-American boy named Jackson. Theron, who was born and raised in South Africa, joins the likes of Madonna, Angelina Jolie, Sandra Bullock and several other famous folks in adopting a Black baby.

"She has always wanted to be a mom," as source told Us Weekly. "She is glad to be able to do it on her own now and is so happy to be a mom."

Here we have another White single mother choosing to take a Black child into her home, but the most enthusiasm I can muster is “hmmmm.” On one hand, I am happy that anyone would like to take on the responsibility of mothering a child, of any color, who has been abandoned — especially a Black one. Motherhood, biological or not, is a sacrifice and no easy feat. And more than anything else, children need love and stability from a parent of any color or sex.

But as much as I might like to see a child in a loving environment, there’s a part of me that wonders what a White woman like Theron or Jolie or Bullock could possibly know about raising a Black child, especially a male one. Black single mothers are given holy hell about their ability to raise Black boys into upstanding men, despite their intuitive understanding of what it means to grow up Black in America. Forgive me for not understanding how single White mothers are expected to successfully take on this challenge with great success while their Black counterparts wring their hands, or are damned for trying.

A mother like Theron is facing an uphill battle. Will she understand what she will have to teach her Black son about his place in the world? That as much as she, a loving mother, sees him as an equal, as worthy of the respect given to her as a White woman of means and wealth, that he will not be given the same? Does she understand that it is necessary for his survival that she will have to instill a fear in him of what it means to live while Black, lest his fire be extinguished too soon like Trayvon Martin’s was?

At 16, when I got my license and my first car, I also learned that the rules are entirely different for Black people. Police aren’t to be merely respected — they’re to be feared. When (not if) you are pulled over, the response is “No, sir,” or “Yes, sir.” Keep your hands on the wheel at 10 and 2. Ask permission before you reach for your registration. There’s no questioning, no arguing, even if you are in the right. I can only imagine how much more restrictive the guidelines would have been if my father was raising a son.

I’m just skimming the surface, but I wonder: Do White women, even famous ones, know that procedure? I’m confident that they are able to love our Black boys they groom to be men. But protect them? I’m unsure.

Do you think White women are capable of raising Black boys?

Demetria L. Lucas is the author of “A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life” (Atria), in stores now. Follow her on Twitter @abelleinbk
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