In the aftermath of the grand jury decision not to return an indictment against Officer Darren Wilson on any charges, I found myself heartbroken once again and in utter disbelief. Although I wish I could say I believed there was going to be an indictment; I didn’t, but once again I was hopeful. It was a teeny weensy glimmer of hope but it was hope nonetheless. Hope that foolishly allowed me to believe; unlike the countless other times, this time would be different. This time they would see. This time they would understand. This time they would empathize. This time they would finally hear our cries and feel our pain. This time they would acknowledge the huge disparity which allows kids of no color the opportunity to live beyond youthful transgressions and childish choices and decisions, while our kids; kids of color somehow aren’t worthy of that same opportunity, because only a handful have something of value to offer to society anyway. Nine out of twelve votes needed for an indictment seemed reachable, until I did the math in my head. It didn’t take me long to figure out six white women plus three white men equaled; the deck was stacked and not in Michael Brown’s favor, yet somehow I still held out hope. I felt foolish. I felt tricked. How stupid of me to have the mitigated gall to have hope in spite of all the evidence to the contrary? I desperately wanted to look hope square in the eye and scream, “Don’t you ever come around here again; you’re not welcome around these parts”.
One week later hope visited once again with promises of a different outcome. After all there was video; video which showed the callous nature in which Eric Garner was killed by those who took an oath to protect and serve. I watched a man lying on the ground lifeless after repeating eleven times, “I can’t breathe”, while no assistance was offered or any concern shown. And for what, suspicion of selling loose cigarettes. It didn’t seem fair that Eric Garner received the death penalty on that fateful day while Officer Daniel Pantaleo looked into the camera and waved as if taking an everyday selfie for likes and shares.
The range of emotions I felt, began at A and slowly ended at Z. The hope I once held out for humanity slowly dissipated and instantly drained any desire I had left to behave or think reasonably. I cried knowing my tears were useless; powerless to do anything other than stain my shirt. “God, help me”, I whispered softly. However the rage I felt inside screamed something else. I wanted God to help by letting them feel what people of color feel on a regular basis when our kids are gunned down in the street by those who took an oath to protect them. I wanted them to know firsthand the pain and the ongoing hopelessness people of color feel in protecting our children. I knew I couldn’t give voice to my rage. Truth is although I was angry, I didn’t want anyone else to experience what people of color experience regularly when it comes to justice. Name after name after name added daily to a growing list of blatant injustices across the country. The alarm had been sounded, indicating open season on unarmed black men without repercussions. It would be irresponsible not to ask the question – why? Why are our counterparts allowed to jump the white house fence, frolic across the grass and live to stand before a jury of their peers? Why are our counterparts allowed to shoot and kill unsuspecting patrons in movie theatres and still live to see the inside of a courtroom? What am I to deduce from these examples of police restraint for others who don’t look like me?
I took to Social Media to find some solace; to connect with people who I imagined had to feel what I felt. In desperation I searched for times and locations of protests and rallies. Just like the rally for Trayvon Martin, I wanted my son and I to be a part. I wanted to stand up and unite my voice with others who felt the same and scream, “Black lives matter”. In my search, I was moved by the many people crying once for justice. On every one of my Social Network feeds were countless photos of parents hugging their sons and posts of prayers of comfort and peace. And then something shifted, as if the wounds weren’t enough; salt was being poured into the wounds by my very own people. I began to see tons of posts and comments, from the black community which broke my heart even more. “If black men would just pull up their pants. If black men would just get an education. If black men would take care of their kids. If black men would speak articulately. If black men would just respect themselves. Oh and the infamous; black people kill each other all the time and no one gets upset about it”. Whenever something happens, I hear these arguments and justifications all of the time, but this time it was more than I could bare. In what world does any of these justifications make sense? My God, we have a married to one wife black President who openly loves his wife and takes care of his kids. We’ve never heard whisperings of any extra marital affairs or indiscretions. He graduated from Columbia University and Harvard Law School. He’s articulate and we would be hard pressed to find a photo of him wearing jeans low enough for us to see the color of his boxers and yet none of these things exempt him from being the most disrespected President in our nation’s history; a disrespect that goes way beyond disliking or disagreeing with his policies, this level of disrespect is much deeper. Clearly, those justifications don’t work and they never will.
My son handed me a tissue and innocently asked, “Ma, why are you crying?” I dabbed at my tears and remained silent contemplating what to say. I wondered how I could explain to a ten year old child that I felt he was in danger. The world would be afraid of him simply because he is black. He’s 5 feet 5 inches tall, weighing 120 lbs. No questions will be asked of him. He doesn’t look ten; to some he will look like a demon; a thug. No matter how much energy and effort I put into ensuring he is a productive member of society, it won’t change what some people see when they look at him. No matter how many honor rolls he makes or great achievements awards he holds, to some, he will never be able to achieve enough to escape the harsh reality of racism. He is expected to cross every T and dot every I and even after he’s done all of that, it still won’t be enough. I didn’t want him to be afraid but I wanted to scream be very afraid. I began by hugging him and telling him how important he is; not just to me but to this world; he has a purpose. I reiterated the do’s and don’ts of interacting with the police. I told him not all cops are bad but neither are all young black men. I reminded him that he matters and to never be afraid to fight for what he believes in – no matter what. I told him to never allow the feeling of hopelessness, steal his hope for change. See, I still have hope. Hope that one day, the outrage felt by millions like me across the nation, would spark a movement where laws would be changed, policies would be banned and every black life would matter.