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By Trabian Shorters

What does a father tell his sons in an era where we are eye-witness to policemen shooting unarmed black folks in their backs, in their cars, in broad daylight, on front lawns—seemingly every week?

I’ve looked into the dismayed, angry eyes of my 22-year-old son as he wrestles with the impression that his life is valued less than a dog’s in America. It is a horrible, horrible feeling. It puts our children in a battle for their souls and their sanity.

#BlackLivesMatter is a fight for their right to exist. That’s why I don’t care if they occasionally make mistakes or are impolite in their attempts to prevent murder.

My son is intelligent, good looking, and strong-willed, so when he asks me to make sense of this, I can’t tell him something trite or stupid. I tell him the truth:

You and your generation are the ones who will ultimately put an end to this.

You are the largest, most-diverse, most digitally connected generation America has ever seen. You’ll be the first to live in an America that has no racial majority. You are the first to elect a black man president – twice, and to legalize gay marriage. America is definitely changing on your watch.

Trabian Shorters launched BMe Community in 2013 because he believed in creating a more authentic narrative on race, communities and the future.Trabian Shorters

The brutality that you’re seeing in policing is leftover from an attitude that’s as outdated as the Confederate flag or “The Southern Strategy.”

So this fight isn’t about your identity son, it’s about America’s identity.

There are whole mistaken generations of people—namely Baby Boomers & Gen-Xers—who were raised to define black people by our worst attributes and to believe inherently threatening things about us.

Conservatives often suggest that we are burdens on society who get privileges we haven’t earned. Liberals often suggest that unless we do something about black people their predilection for crime and poverty will burden society.

We are not “black mentors,” we are a Community. This is not a program. This is personal.

Neither outdated narrative gets the story right when they look at you, son. They see threat or problem, not assets and aspirations. So don’t let either define you.

You get to choose “who you think you are” and what beliefs you’ll build your future upon. Then you have to stand with others who share those beliefs—no matter their race or gender—and help others know their worth. And you know that I don’t give idle advice.

I launched BMe Community in 2013 because I believe that America wants a more authentic narrative on race, communities and our future. The 143 BMe Leaders like Chris Wilson—who overcame a life sentence to prison at age 17—are inspired black men who have stared hatred, injustice, and prejudice right in the eye – just as I’m asking you to do.

They went blow-for-blow in the battle for their souls and stand proud, unbeaten, and unbowed. The organizations they lead build educated children, economic opportunity, and human rights for over 400,000 people a year. Together with our 17,000 Community-builders, we encourage others to see black men as assets, value all members of the human family, and work together to build more caring and prosperous communities.

We are not “black mentors,” we are a Community. This is not a program. This is personal.

We are optimistic about the future because we’ll never stop building the one we want. See for yourself how much #BlackMenLove.

This article was shared in partnership with BMe Community’s #BlackMenLove to remind readers of who, what, and how deeply BlackMenLove during Black Philanthropy Month. BMe is a growing network of all races and genders committed to building better communities across the U.S. Read more at www.BMeCommunity.org. #ReachWithUs