Boss Up: Becoming Alright
This guest post comes from Erin “Rox” Cruz! Rox is a returning Lynchburg native who used to have THE most interesting life before she became a mom. Now she's mostly content spending her days watching Little Einsteins and scraping dried play-doh off the walls. Rox and her husband have two hilarious boys and will, one day, have chickens again. She is joining The Listening as the Site Coordinator for the Freedom Schools program this year and is excited to help kids learn how to creatively express themselves through reading, social action and conflict resolution.
Every pivotal season in my life has had its own anthem. These songs have crossed generations and genres and fallen into my lap at exactly the most needed moment. Some songs have helped me to focus, some have made me stronger, and some have given me hope. Even more have helped my bleeding heart to just calm down when the emotions of a break-up or a cause have become too harsh for my tiny body to handle anymore. Sometimes you just have to cry it out over a song, wipe your face, and boss up.
The last few years have been a long season of “bossing up” for so many of us, and my white-girl eyes have been opened up to new pains and fears I had never even fathomed before. My friend, Danielle, and I delivered our boys one week apart in 2016. When you’re a new mom the isolation can be pretty awful, so we would make lunch dates and take our babies while we talked about the atrocities of birth and late-night feedings. One day at lunch we were talking about genders and I was a little taken aback when Danielle said she “mournfully cried” when she found out they were having a boy.
“But why?” I asked, knowing she LOVED being his mommy.
“Because I was scared for him.” She replied.
She went on to explain that raising a black son meant he’d have to walk on eggshells outside of their home. She would have to teach him to be strong and proud, but that he needed to appear meek in certain situations. She had fears that when he grew up he would get shot because he was misidentified as someone else, or even worse, just because he was black. Both of our eyes started tearing up at the realization that this was STILL the world we were living in, where black mamas are afraid for their baby boys. Both our boys would grow to sing “Twinkle Twinkle” every night, and beam with pride the first time they got to base in tee ball, and ask for kisses for every ouchie, and love their mamas fiercely. But when my fair-skinned son hits middle school he’ll still be seen as “just a kid” and her son will be seen as a threat.
A few weeks later I was sitting with another mama friend and we were talking about how my half-Puerto Rican son had lost all of his brown in three very short months. We laughed about it at first and then she said, “It’s probably a good thing that he looks white. You won’t have to worry like I will.”
I didn’t question her and I didn’t argue, because I knew it was true.
I caught the lump in my throat while I nodded and my face felt hot, and I could feel scorching tears on my cheeks. I wasn’t angry at her for saying what she said. I was angry that I was SO THANKFUL that she was right. It’s hard being a mama and worrying about your kids all the time, but if either of my boys had their daddy’s skin instead of mine, I know their paths would be so much harder. I know the daily risk to their lives would be so much greater. And that terrifies me.
While I rocked my son to sleep at night I made it my mission to learn the names of mothers of boys who had been killed. The bright screen of my cell phone would start to blur as tears fell and my heart broke for their sons. Kids like Kalief Browder, Emmett Till, Tamir Rice, Virgil Ware, and Trayvon Martin who were all minding their own business when their days and ultimately their lives were disrupted. Sons who could have done amazing things had they not been seen as a problem based on their skin tone.
My world was officially rocked, and to get through the day without dwelling on all the loss, I had to play happy songs. I had to let myself cry and then keep going. Because if I only break and cry, I’m not helping anyone or changing anything. I didn’t understand the strength and mourning those mamas must have had to fight through to get answers, but rarely get justice. I knew I had to fight with them and learn from them to teach my boys what strength and unity really look like.
In a season of uncertainty, blatant racism, deportations, drug epidemics, freed white rapists, continued violence, and rising political tensions I NEED a new “boss up” anthem. Every anxiety inducing news story has me asking God if we’re really going to be alright. So tonight after I put my babies to bed and say my prayers, I’ll give myself permission to cry. But then I’m putting on my headphones, turning up the volume, and repeating over and over…
We gon’ be alright.
We gon’ be alright.
We gon’ be alright...
…with my kid-friendly censored version of Kendrick Lamar’s hit.
And you just watch me be a boss tomorrow.