'The Burden I feel Is Heavy:' A Black Father Raising a Black Son in America
By Ramon Kinloch, M.D.
A tie. A pair of slippers. Cuff links. A wallet. What do these things have in common? They’re all examples of gifts that I have given to my dad for Father’s Day. This year will be a little bit different because, for the first time, I will be celebrating Father’s Day with my own son! Now I’m not expecting those types of gifts from him—yet *wink* (he’s turning 1 in July), but the best gift my son can give me is his presence.
Being a dad is awesome! I think it’s great to be able to look at your little one and let your imagination run wild with thoughts about what their personality will be like, what sports they will be good at, what instrument they will play and so on. So far, the best thing has been hearing my son say “dada” and knowing that he actually understands who I am. Add to that him reaching out with his arms for me to pick him up when I come home, and it just melts my heart every day.
Then reality sinks in.
I want to be able to say I’m excited and looking forward to having a fun-filled day as a first time Dad, full of surprise gifts. But there’s a part of me that won’t allow me to engage with that emotion fully. Recent events that reignited the fight against racial injustice have again highlighted that not only am I a Black man in America, but I am a Black father raising a Black son in America. The burden I feel is HEAVY.
I was fortunate to grow up with a loving dad who was always full of encouragement. But I absolutely remember those conversations about how others would perceive me because of my darker skin—inferior, worthless, ignorant, threatening. That I would always have to work twice as hard and minimize mistakes to have any shot at being successful. And even still, with all of the education and accolades I could achieve, I would NEVER be looked at or thought of as being equal because I would ALWAYS be Black.
Even now, being a pediatrician, I generally feel that I’ve been successful and defied the odds. I’m blessed and thankful to be able to serve my families and I truly view myself as an extension of their families. I’ve also been fortunate to feel embraced by all of my patient-families, the majority of who are White. I know that I’m going to give my absolute best day in and day out for each child, but there are times where I wonder if I make a mistake, will I be viewed as incompetent because of my skin color? And then no longer have patients?
The burden and sadness I feel come from knowing that one day I will have to teach my son those same lessons I was taught growing up (30+ years later!). All the while worrying every day whether or not the lessons have sunk in. More so, worrying about whether or not he is suffering hurt, harm or being placed in danger because he is a Black male. I have already been praying for his safety and God’s protection as he grows up in this world. Despite these weighty feelings and emotions, despite knowing that there are people who don’t want to see me succeed because I’m Black, and despite knowing that having a white coat doesn’t protect my Black skin from experiencing injustice; I will still continue to serve with a smile. And I will be sure to have a smile on my first Father’s Day.
Advice to other dads:
Since these unprecedented times have basically forced us to slow down and take a step back, I think the first thing we should do as fathers is honest self-reflection and meditation (Have I been a good dad? What am I teaching my kid(s)? How could I do better?). Next, I would say eliminate the fear of showing emotions.
As a father/husband, I believe some of the most constructive times have been when I’ve shown my loved ones that I too can be vulnerable. Don’t worry, your little one will still see you as Superman! Last, give your kids a little extra love, especially during these days of uncertainty and conflict. They are probably just as stressed, scared and confused.
No need to wait for them to tell you how they’re feeling, just go ahead and love on them. Sometimes holding them a little bit closer and tighter is all they need to feel safe and secure again.
Teach Love. Give Love. Receive Love.
Happy Father’s Day 2020.
Ramon Kinloch, M.D.
Get to know Ramon Kinloch, M.D.
Dr. Kinloch is a Cook Children's pediatrician at Cook Children's Pediatrics Fort Worth - Forest Park and now a proud dad.
"My desire to practice medicine really stemmed from my interest in the sciences. I actually thought about a career as an astronaut at first, but decided that wasn't for me after watching the movie 'Armageddon'. As I got older, I enjoyed spending time in the church nursery and developed a passion for teaching/mentoring children and adolescents. Becoming a pediatrician allowed me to integrate what I love doing and have fun serving others.
Outside of practicing medicine, I enjoy traveling, especially internationally to experience and learn about the different cultures of our world. I love music and dancing. I enjoy watching and playing sports (I'm a big Michigan Wolverines and Dallas Cowboys fan!). Last but not least, I enjoy checking out new restaurants.
I am thankful and blessed to be married to the love of my life Andrea. We are now the proud parents of our son, Tyson, who can melt your heart with a smile—even if there’s a pacifier in the way. We have a lab mix dog, Ramsey, who now thinks he’s a babysitter. I love being a pediatrician because it is one of the few careers where you can let you inner kid be free!