[Thoughts documented shortly after the fatal police shootings of Alton Sterling + Philando Castile the Summer of 2016]
I’m at a loss. I am at a loss for what to say, what to do, how to feel. And I do…feel this loss, in a way that is unique to me. These lost lives, lost innocence, a lost sense of how I would like to believe the world & society to be. I so desperately WANT to believe that people are intrinsically good…at least deep down at their core. That we’ve reached a collective “good place” where most people can happily coexist and thrive.
And I am wrong. I’ve been shown over and over again that I am wrong. Each time something like this happens my gut tells me to mourn this crazy exception to the rule, the outlier…this thing that is wildly out of the ordinary. But I’ve slowly come to the realization that these tragedies are far from exceptional, far from atypical, far from isolated. The only thing that’s “different” is the intensity of the light that’s beginning to shine. Social media now acts as a global bullhorn drawing our attention to a few select incidents that cannot go unnoticed. And then there are those that do not draw the same attention. But they are there…occurring each and every day right before our very eyes, under our noses, in our backyards and all around us. Yet we don’t even see it.
What is that “we” really? It’s me, people…like me, people unlike me, but with the same level of privilege. The privilege that allows us to believe that things are on the right track, so much better than they were in our parent’s day. The privilege that allows us to walk around in the world and not give thought or concern to where we may be going, how we may be perceived, or how a seemingly benign encounter may quickly escalate into a life threatening incident.
Ignorance is bliss, isn’t that what they say? I can say that is true. I’ve spent the majority of my 36 years blissfully walking along on my cloud thinking that all is right with the world. I subscribed to all the old adages like “it will all work out”, “right always wins”, “good will triumph over evil”, etc. I could go on and on. And I did, I believed all of that. It’s easy to believe when all of your needs are met as well as many, many of your wants. When safety has never been a concern, when the police only represented protection, when your biggest concerns are true “first world problems.”
Please don’t get me wrong, I am truly grateful for every opportunity that I have been afforded and hope that I’ve done my best to take little of it for granted. I do feel so very lucky & blessed. Yes, all very easy to say, but what does it mean? Probably not much of anything if it weren’t for one thing. I am a mother.
I’m a mom to two beautiful biracial boys. My boys. Boys of color. With gorgeous kinky curly hair, lovely caramel colored skin and soulful chocolate black eyes. There is one thing I want for them…NEED for them. That same “privilege”, which shouldn’t be a privilege, to simply walk through life and not give thought or concern to where they may be going, how they may be perceived, or how a seemingly benign encounter may become a life-threatening incident.
I want them to be able to walk along on a cloud knowing that all is right with the world. And having faith that “it will all work out”, “right always wins”, “good will triumph over evil” and on & on. Because all of their needs are met as well as many of their wants. Confident that safety is not of concern and the police only represent protection. Bring on those “first world problems!”
So how do I do this? How do I explain to my beautiful innocent lovelies that some people will look at them and not see the brilliance of their heart and soul, but will find the color of their skin to define something other than perfection? Do you have any idea what the prospect of having a conversation like that looks like? How damaging is that? What does that do to your self-image, to your soul? I don’t want to know the answer to that question. Yet I am slowly beginning to understand that I must have these conversations with them to prevent them from becoming the next victim on the front page. That is soul crushing for me. Heartbreaking. Wrong.
I don’t want them to see color. I don’t want them to view themselves as “other” or to know that those that came before them were EVER viewed as “less than.” I can’t change that part for them because it is history. But WE have the opportunity to change their future and make it right. YOU need to do something. I need to do something. We all need to take action and stop believing that it will all work out. It won’t. It just won’t. We need to do this now. And that does not mean retaliation. Retaliation is an ignorant, ineffective form of protest. Do not be a martyr. Take action. Vote, organize, advocate and be the change you want to see in this world. Do not let these lives be lost in vain. We have the opportunity to change the trajectory of how this all plays out.
And here I sit, comfortable in my living room, nursing my darling baby and watching my boy play make believe. I am so thankful that, for now, I can still fix everything for my nursling simply. With mother’s milk. And that my eldest remains blissfully unaware of what he’s up against in this world. I wish I could bottle their innocence and freeze it for them. But I know we must face these things and those terrible conversations are on our horizon. I want nothing more than to protect them. At this point, I just pray that I have what it takes to effectively walk through this world by their side with grace & dignity…thriving.