Like a lot of moms around the country at this time of year, I was physically separated from two boys on the night I wanted to hug them more than anything else in the world. When the George Zimmerman verdict came in on Saturday, I knew they were safe and snug at their grandparent’s house where they are spending part of their summer.

But the realization weighs on me that when they return, I’m going to have to have a conversation with them that they’re way too young and naïve to receive. I’m going to have to tell them that in some instances they will be feared, profiled, singled out and even hated because they are black. I will add that because of this, even when they’re doing right or nothing at all, they may be stopped, questioned, accused or attacked.

But I’m also going to have to temper that statement with one that is just as important. I’m going to remind them that they are wonderfully and awesomely made and that their father and I have more love for them than they could ever imagine.

I’m going to tell them to trust in God and not man because the world is made up of all kinds of people – good and evil.

I’m going to remind them that they are always to follow the rules, adhere to the laws and treat people, especially people in authority, with respect.

I’m sure Trayvon Martin was taught many of the lessons I’m going to teach my boys. And like his parents, as much as I want my sons to be good citizens that honor what is right, I also want them to know when to stand up and be men, to defend themselves if a situation arises and not be afraid to fight, sometimes physically, against injustice.

We’re living in a society that in an effort to cut back on violence, we may have gone to the extreme with rules like zero tolerance in schools.

Most men I know have had their fair share of scrapes with other boys by the time they reach adulthood. Granted, my boys aren’t fighters and I wouldn’t want them to be in a school where violence, bullying – physical or verbal – was encouraged. But I do recognize that in the real world, boys and men need to work some things out and there are measures of what should and shouldn’t be tolerated. I don’t know a parent, especially one who is African American, who would tell her or his son not to fight back if a situation turned physical.

My sons are tall for their ages and it scares me to think of what could happen if, in an effort to defend themselves, they were mistakenly seen as the aggressor.

All responsible parents should tell their sons and daughters for that matter to listen to and obey orders from law enforcement, keep their mouths shut and show their hands at all times. That’s just common sense.  But it should be a different story if it’s a boy -to boy or man- to- man altercation.  So, I ask you, what will you tell your sons? To walk away, stand up and fight like a man, or maybe even to kill or be killed if the situation calls for it?

Are we raising our boys to be men…or victims?

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