Dear father that I never had,
Though I always wanted you, I (grew up) without you. Most times I struggled with it, other times I tried not to think about it, but the sense of emptiness was always there and always affected me. I allowed your absence to function as a catalyst for my failure. I used it as a tool to tell my story—a story of coming of age in the economically depressed and crime riddled city of San Bernardino, California. Although, initially, I considered my changes stepping stones towards manhood, my ideologies were a direct embodiment of my boyish naiveté. With time, I had finally made my first step into adulthood with the acceptance to my dream college, but my whole story found the struggle of growing up without my father in its center. The truth is I was and am so much more than that, but at that time, I allowed your absence to define who I was.
When fatherless Black men begin to define their own destiny — and not allow a man who gave them a chromosome to shape their life — we begin our metamorphosis. It hurts not to have a father. It can feel like unrelenting isolation. Why would he leave me alone? Why would he leave me without him? These questions may go unanswered, but fatherless children have to cope. Too many of us allow these feelings to be an excuse for poor life decisions. To fill this emptiness a large percentage of us join gangs and participate other boyish activities. And as long as we allow our fathers to be the motive behind our childish decisions, we will always remain just boys.
The absence of the Black father figure is a commonality. Rap songs portray Black men as loyal friends who “ride for their Niggas,” but this apparently does not extend the favor to their children. I have endured your absence — so many of us have endured your absence, but I know you are a product of what you know. Our race has been consistently slaughtered and psychologically ripped apart for the advantage of the White man and his family over centuries. They have ensured that we do not understand our worth, including our worth to our children.
I know that we can survive this horrific war that has been set out against us. We have survived it before. From the genocide of African people through the Atlantic Slave Trade, to Jim Crow, and now to the age of mass incarceration and police violence, the Black race has survived and continues to experience the most dehumanizing aggression this world has ever seen. This is American racism. We have come far, but we have so much further to go. If we can overcome all that we have endured, then surely we can overcome our obstacles now. Surely, we can become the kings that we are destined to be and rule over our own kingdoms. I know that we can do this. For we have done it before and I can do it again.
It took me a while to understand who I was. But I thank God that I finally know. I am not a product of you. I am a product of my own destiny, of my ancestors, and of God. When we began to break down the structure of life that everybody else created for us, and we build on our own, only then can we begin to transition from fatherless boys into the great Black men that are—considering current events—a necessity. We have the capability to accomplish this. I know this because we have done it before. And we shall do it again.
I pity you,
Brandon Watts, 19