When I was pregnant, I always knew I was carrying a boy. Call it mother’s intuition or maybe just a good guess, but I knew. At my 20 week scan, the sonographer confirmed it. My husband and I were thrilled. Every step of pregnancy is so full of joy, and this was just one example of that: A fun benchmark along the way to meeting our future. After the initial feelings of elation wore off, my mind went quiet. In that moment of stillness, with my husband by my side and my little guy still pictured on the screen, do you know what my first thought about this baby was?
“Thank God he’s not black.”
It was November of 2014, and like so many, I was still reeling from the summer when Eric Garner was strangled for selling cigarettes, and Michael Brown was shot with his hands in the air. Later that month, Akai Gurley and Tamir Rice were killed by police sworn to protect them. The thought popped up again. What would I do if I had a black son? How would I cope with the fear that he could be harmed or killed for no legitimate reason at any time?
The thing is, I don’t have to. I don’t have to worry that a police officer paid by my tax dollars will murder my child in a park. At no point in my child’s life will I have to develop ways to constantly reinforce that his actions and words can and will be misinterpreted, misrepresented, and/or ignored by people with lethal weapons. This is what privilege looks like.
It’s two years later, and I have no answers. I see no justice. It’s getting worse. I am not prepared to raise my child amidst this madness beside parents of color who we’ve cornered into a perpetual state of fear. What I am prepared to do is RAISE HELL in all directions because I refuse to accept that people I love must experience consistent, mind-numbing trauma. I refuse to accept more dead bodies carelessly discarded for their blackness. ENOUGH.
I shared the story and reflection above the week that Alton Sterling and Philando Castile were killed. Now a few months have passed, and Terence Crutcher and Keith Lamont Scott are also dead at the hands of the police. Two more bodies within days of each other, and the list keeps on growing.
A week later, Alfred Olango’s sister called 911 because he was experiencing a mental health crisis. Not long after his sister called for help, he was shot to death by the police, who responded to that call. It’s worth repeating Jesse Williams’ words from the BET awards over the summer. “We know that police somehow manage to de-escalate, disarm, and not kill white people every day.” Yet, we can’t go a month without news of unarmed black men dying in the streets at the hands of law enforcement.
In July, North Miami police even shot a man caring for a person with autism while he lay flat on the pavement. The officer who fired his weapon literally said, “I don’t know,” when the victim, Charles Kinsey, asked why he had been shot. WHAT?!
I don’t presume to know the answers here when it comes to fixing this monumental problem. However, I am certain that the solution must involve a lot more of us. For my part, I’m thinking a lot about how to raise my son to be empathetic, accepting of difference, and relentless in challenging the status quo. I’m thinking about how I can help shape him into the kind of person who will stand up and tear down the racist, sexist, heteronormative hegemony that proclaims quietly but so very powerfully that only some people are worthy of life, liberty, and happiness. He will reject that nonsense with his entire being if it’s the last thing I do.
He’s only one and a half, and I’ve spent time talking to him in age-appropriate ways about race, gender, difference, consent, and fairness. I’ll share more about what that looks like for a toddler and other ages later. For now, I want to say that as mothers and as parents, it’s time to recognize what’s at stake here.
Families of color already know all too well and have been fighting this fight their entire lives. They shouldn’t have to do it alone. White parents, please join me in learning about systemic oppression so that we can train our children to dismantle it. Join me in refusing to accept that some of us may live in peace while others live in fear.
Join me in shouting it from the rooftops: Black Lives Matter.