CJ Pearson is having quite a year. The 13-year-old has been interviewed by TIME Magazine, racked up millions of views on his YouTube channel, appeared on cable news to deliver political commentary, and been named national chairman of a presidential hopeful’s campaign group. Mind you he’s done all of this before his first day of high school. Ambitious, intelligent, driven young Black kid who’s making his dreams a reality sooner rather than later. Dreams of being the next great conservative, that is.
Pearson racked up those YouTube views by declaring things like “Thugs Don’t Matter” and saying proudly that the Black Lives Matter movement represents, “the looters, the thugs, the criminals, [and] the rapists.” That cable network he appeared on was Fox News (with the always colorful Sean Hannity) to explain his outrage with Ahmed Mohamed’s invitation to the White House. The political campaign he’s heading up is “Teens for Ted” as in Republican presidential hopeful and Tea Party darling Ted Cruz.
He even got the attention of the White House by declaring he had been blocked by the POTUS twitter account. That ended up not being true (because, duh) but it says a lot that a White House staff member even addressed it.
To be clear, none of this information changes what I’ve already said about Coreco JaQuan Pearson. He is still an ambitious, intelligent, driven young kid who is having one hell of a year. He just so happens to be more Clarence Thomas than Stokely Carmichael.
Amongst all the interviews and articles during Pearson’s 15 minutes of fame what stood out to me the most was his parents who according to CJ “‘virtually disagree with everything’ he says.”
That’s the part that scares me.
I’ve always felt excited about the possibility of being a father to a son some day: imparting wisdom upon him, helping with girls, dunking on my kid in one-on-one (complete with trash talk, no matter how small he is.) These are the things I look forward to. But reading about this dynamic and driven gave me a not so subtle wake-up call: humans are nurture and nature. Meaning there’s no tellin’ what my son or daughter is going to believe or stand for, despite what I may do to influence him.
If CJ’s parents are anything like mine, he’s grown up with Obama magnets on his fridge and Black Like Me on his bookshelf. Pearson calls the discussions between him and his parents, “tense, yet respectful” but also says his parents support his involvement in politics. Imagine having this little whiz kid buzzing around your house gaining literally millions of fans and critics online. Imagine admiring the drive and courage of your own kid but ultimately not believing in the message.
Mr. and Mrs. Pearson sit at the crossroads of supporting their teenage kid with his passion while simultaneously believing he’s wrong on “virtually everything.” That, to me, is terrifying. I couldn’t in good conscience let my 13-year-old Black son stare into a webcam and declare “some Black lives don’t matter,” no matter who his political heroes may be. My parents always pushed me to pursue whatever my passion was at the time (it changed quite a bit). I plan to do the same with my kid, but it never occurred to me that the passion in question could be so contentious, polarizing and come at such a young age.
Obviously, there’s nothing wrong with being conservative, or disagreeing with your parents. What’s baffling (and frightening) to me is the idea that your kid can believe something so strongly that you didn’t teach him. Maybe this doesn’t come as a shock for parents, the idea that you can try to instill certain things in your child and it just not be received or in this case be vehemently rejected. The things I mentioned earlier, basketball, girls, etc. are commonalities I would like to have with my future kid but they’re not essential. Having a strong sense of self and a certain kinship with Black people of all backgrounds, however? That’s essential in my book. And while it’s essential, I don’t know how to teach it. That’s terrifying.
The acquittals, the arrests, the shootings, the statistics are all painful but I can’t force another person (or my kid) to bear that burden. That sense of community, isn’t taught the way a jump shot or baseball swing might be. For me, it feels like it’s always been there, but I don’t know how I got it and the thought of my kid being known around the country for NOT having it is a nightmare.
There are plenty of things I want to pass on, but this is the only thing that I have to pass on and the worst part is, I don’t know how.
MANifest is EBONY’s series dedicated to all things Black men, running every Monday on EBONY.com and appearing monthly in print, starting with our October Men’s issue. Interested in contributing? Hit firstname.lastname@example.org and follow our October hashtag: #BlackMaleBrilliance