Dear Black youth,

I love you. And I mean you. Not the “you” in other people’s imaginations and expectations, but I mean that I love you for who you really are.

I see you for who you are, all of you, and I love you. I love you when you excel in schools that don’t have your best interests at heart. I love you when you hate school. I love you when you are cursing in the streets, and I love you when you are being as polite as the adults want you to be. I love you when you are compliant, and I love you when you resist. I love you when you understand clearly, and when you do not understand. I love you regardless of the height of your waistline. I love you when you are supporting your friends and family, and I love you when you cannot resist the urge to be violent. I love your questions, your curiosity, your boldness, your fire, your vision, and your willingness to grow up even when you know how harsh this world can be.

I say it plainly, because we live in a world that does not love you. In fact, this world hates you, and works hard to make sure that you know it hates you. Because you are black, this world will attack your skin, your hair, your nose, your lips, your body, what you like, what you are good at, your thoughts, and who you feel like you love. It will tell you that you have no right to be angry. That you are wrong to be angry. It will tell you to not cry–that unless there is blood there should be no tears. It will ignore you and neglect you.

And not only will the world do it, but the older people who look like you will do it too. Your own people will judge you, shame you, and call you names. They will blame you for the very problems that were here before your birth. And they won’t even know that they do it. Or what’s worse, they might even deny it!

But know that they do it because they do not have, and never have had the ability to see you for who you are. They do it because they are still dealing with their own pain. They remember what the world has done to them, and so they will put expectations on you that have nothing to do with what you care about and what you see. So please know that when the older people who look like you make you feel bad, it has everything to do with their own hurt, and nothing to do with you.

Please know that I love you not because I expect you to change the world, but because I know you will change the world. I love you because in this crazy world of a Black president and new technology, you are growing up with knowledge the world has never seen before. Your presence in this world is the beginning of a new era.

So know that I love you because you persevere and endure. I love you because you are lovable and deserve love. I love you because I am you, and you are me. And we need each other.