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The Heavy Burden of Teaching My Son About American Racism | The Atlantic

The Heavy Burden of Teaching My Son About American Racism | The Atlantic If my black child has to learn that society will hate him, he should hear about it from someone who unconditionally loves him.

Race, Racism, Race Relations, KOLUMN Magazine, KOLUMN, African American News, Willoughby Avenue



When I saw the sign for the Emmett Till Museum, I knew I had to take the next exit. As a Ph.D. student in American history studying the civil-rights movement, it felt almost like an obligation. My only hesitation was that my 7-year-old son was in the car too.

Was he ready to learn about one of the most notorious lynchings in the nation’s history? Could I bear to watch his eyes lose some of their glow?

The road that led from the highway to the one-street town of Glendora, Mississippi, was barely more than a trail. Only the concrete slabs remain of the home of one of Till’s lynchers, and just beyond it stands a gray building with corrugated metal walls. Inside is the Emmett Till Historic Intrepid Center, or ETHIC, a locally run museum, but in 1955, the year Till was killed, the structure housed a cotton gin. It is likely the place where Milam and his conspirators retrieved the 75-pound cotton-gin fan that they tied around Till’s neck with barbed wire to weigh him down after they threw his corpse into a nearby river.

It was a lot to explain to my son. I didn’t show him any of the gruesome pictures that made Till’s murder internationally known. I simply told him that some men had killed a boy because they thought people with brown skin had to be controlled, violently if necessary.


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