It was early in the morning when my 6-year-old son, Ja’Mauri, rolled over with his eyes still glued shut because of the crust in his little face and said…
“Mommy, can I get some boy earrings?”
I instantly assumed he had a dream about “being cool” since that’s all he ranted about the day before at his birthday photoshoot we do every year to show how much he has grown. Well, son, not even in your dreams will you get an ear piercing. In that same second, I turned to him and calmly said…
“Um no you will not get any ‘boy earrings.’ Now, feet on the floor and get ready for school.”
It may sound like a small harmless request, but when it comes to my little African-American son in this society, I beg to defer. It is just not the same for him because we cannot dismiss the prejudice of a country we live in because of the tone of our skin.
Will I get our future little girl’s ears pierced? Most likely. Double standard? Definitely. For a little girl, it is cute and “brings out their eyes.” However, for a little black boy with a sterling silver cubic zirconia stud dragging down his ear, it symbolizes rebellion even when they aren’t even old enough to have made the decision to be pierced yet. The world assumes that they are tiny thugs because we live in a community where black men are looked upon and judged based on their looks
As my son’s parents, my wife and I are responsible for teaching Jay exactly what today’s society will expect of him even if it is wrong. We try to evade opening opportunities for potential criticism and harm that he can’t understand just yet. Right now, he doesn’t realize the impact an ear piercing has on his future. One day we will explain that to him. But before I teach him what his future may hold, he needs to understand his culture’s past.
Earrings of copper and gold go back to 3000 B.C. in Northern Africa where the Egyptian jewelry was worn by both women and men to recognize their cultural status. Earrings have been found in graves of both genders in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Turkey, and even in cave drawing of men wearing hoop earrings in an ancient Persian city. The small pieces of jewelry were symbols, cultural credentials, and social standing. Earrings were worn by kings! They were signs of wealth and prosperity for black and brown people and were not just for vanity.
So, what changed?
Maybe it has something to do with those boat rides to the New World now known as America. Maybe it is because not only were our unique names given to us by our mothers and religious beliefs snatched from us but also our heritage, to include even the small things like earrings, being worn by men to identify their status among their people. They stripped us of every power we had to make us feel inferior to them, even the real meaning of our earrings.
Now, much like many black mothers across the country, I dread piecing my son’s ears for fear of people judging him due to terror created by our captures in the 1700s. What I don’t want is someone’s mom to pull their child away from mine because of a tiny hole that I created.
I know my son’s little mine is still innocent and currently does not understand this cruel and crazy world. So, an easy “no” for right now will do. But when he does come of age to make those decisions I will explain to him why I never altered his body. Our goal is that he makes the best choice for him and doesn’t do it because his friends did it first. The only way I can ensure he does make the best decision is to teach him he is “cool” without and by teaching him how to be confident and respectful of himself. Regardless of his decision and regardless of what others think, I will be here to support him. All we can do for our children to protect them is give them the tools to succeed and share their own futures.