In This House Boys Will Not be Boys: Teaching My Son New Lessons on Masculinity

by Crystal Tennille Irby

I love my son’s hands. I love to hold them/ kiss them/ help them trace letters. His hands amazed me at the tender age of 3 writing Hs on his own. Then minutes later horrified me transforming Legos into a gun which he aimed at me and said “Pow, pow Mommy.” He doesn’t know his cousin’s fibula will be shattered two days later due to a gunshot wound or a week later Chicago will register its 500th homicide. He doesn’t know he will never meet his Uncle because he was shot five times in the back at close range or during my 6th month of pregnancy with him a young Black male was killed in our county every weekend. He doesn’t know more than Kassandra Perkins, Javon Belcher is imprinted in my psyche because more than wondering how to keep my brown boy from falling victim to violence I wonder how to prevent him from becoming a perpetrator. He doesn’t know we’ve done everything in our power to insulate him from exposure to violence. He doesn’t know. He’s just a boy, all boy they say. Let him be. No. Not in this house.

In my house, boys will not be boys. They will not steal kisses or have innocent touches. In this house boys will respect bodies. They will know only to touch with permission. Boys in this house will know “no” means “no” and needs no additions, excuses, explanation but there is a time and place for persistence and even that has boundaries. They will know stronger does mean superior. They are entitled to nothing. Everything takes work to obtain and keep. In this house boys will learn affection is rooted in love, not aggression. In this house, boys will know a girl/ a woman is more than what she is to you. They will laugh/ smile/ communicate/ and express feelings. In this house, boys will not be boys. They will know that rape is a horrific act. Rape has nothing to do with desire but everything to power. They will know everything in this culture will teach them to always question rape, to always judge a victim but they will understand this is unjust because they will know justice. They will be unafraid to live beyond the box and dance away from the circle. In this house, boys will be brave. The courage of their convictions will ring louder and beat harder in their hearts than the desire to be in the boys club. Boys will not own guns because too often brown boys plus guns equals negative statistics. In this house, boys will not be boys. My son will know language can be violent. He will understand that often people are treated according to what they are called and how they are spoken to. So we will always speak to others with respect no matter how they or others view them. In this house we will always question the impact of everything we support and or purchase. In this house I will teach my son it’s never too late to walk away. In this house boys will understand power and know where privilege is being exercised prejudice is present. They will understand power and privilege are not coupled with abuse and suppression. Power and privilege can always be dismantled and seized. Position is never permanent. Who you are must never be a ruse to gain that which you will not cherish. In this house, boys will not be boys. They will know you and you alone control your emotions. The repercussions of your actions are yours and yours alone to bare. Threats are never idle. Language is violent. In this house we don’t kill bad guys. We catch them and help them become good guys. In this house, boys will not be boys because one day they will be men.

In this house, this mother will always challenge him to consider another’s space, even at the tender age of three because I will not take for granted he has time and eventually he’ll get it. No I’d rather not waste time undoing. I will teach him, this is your body, take care of, be willing to walk away to save it. In this house this mother will teach her son the death of a young woman at the hands of her partner or of young men who look like him must never be conveniently wrapped in a discussion about gun control. He will know there are too many women who now lay silent by being brutally beaten, fatally stabbed or strangled at the hands of the men they next too every night. There are way too many young men who now lay silent because they felt they had no other way to exercise power. Transforming these tragedies into a conversation solely about gun control eats away at my soul and overlooks a glaring stain woven into the psyche of this culture. In this house, boys will be given more than the “guns are dangerous” rhetoric. In this house, my dear son, my brown boy with amazing hands will be given tools to build and I pray he will never seek safety or power through destruction.

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