Guilty on all counts. That is the fate of Derek Chauvin, the Minnesota police officer who stood trial for the what we can now call the murder of George Floyd.
Yet, on the backs of several additional police shootings and killings, Black parents like me are still filled with the anxiety of raising Black sons in America.
“One down and many more to go,” bellowed CNN commentator Van Jones. He’s right – the work is not over. This beginning must be followed by legislation and reform of the way police treat our communities. Tuesday’s verdict brings a seed of hope into our hearts for the change and evolution of policing but there is still a deep root of anxiety that I feel in raising my Black son in this (slow to act when it comes to Black people) society.
As my two-year-old son wanted to play “racey-cars” this morning, I paid closer attention to his car collection. His police Ford Explorer stuck out like a red nickel. I am sure that I have seen this police car in his car line up before, but today it gave me this eerie feeling as my son played. He would lift up one car at a time and say, “what’s this one mommy?” I would say, “that’s the race car, that’s papaw’s truck, and that, that is the police truck.”
The hesitancy in my explanation of what we were looking at hit me like a ton of bricks, the thought of about all of the mothers in our country that have lost their sons and daughters lives to the “police truck”. How could I not explain to my two-year-old that, although this looks like and is described to be the vehicle of a force hired to protect and serve us, the reality is that life for us as Black people is very different.
“The one thing that I don’t want my son to grow up with is fear. I want him to fear no man but God. Period.”
Ten miles south of downtown Dallas is the small suburb where I grew up. My neighbourhood was always quiet and we knew all of our neighbours; Black, white, Asian, Latinx, we all shared information, looked out for each other and most certainly made sure that children were safe and protected. I remember my older brother and his friends got into trouble in our neighbourhood but the police were never called. Neighbours would handle the discipline with love and a stern hand but never called the police. Why? Because there was this unsaid fear that if and when the police came, you could not guarantee the outcome for these young men. The “village” feeling in my neighbourhood was strong.
The one thing that I don’t want my son to grow up with is fear. I want him to fear no man but God. Period. I want him to be armed and equipped to know himself, know his rights and all at the same time know when he encounters police, all of them to be on high alert and super vigilant.
Why? Because I will tell him that in my day – in this day – they cannot be trusted. Should there be reform and change by the time he is 18, I will tell him to stay open to the possibility. But for this day, he will need a lesson every year of his innocent life about why his heavily melanated skin brings angst, fear and hate to the surface for some very small-minded white people.
I wonder how many Black mothers in America feel this way. Making tough, imbalanced decisions to equip our sons and daughters with this knowledge, yet without stoking fear and paranoia in their little minds.
The fact that we have to live like every day truly disgusts me some days. It disgusts me that it seems like in a very modern sense, we are going back in time. It helps that we have movies that keep us reminded of these things as well.
“How much more trauma and stress around the colour of our skin can one take?”
This weekend I decided to disgrace my eyes and trip out my psyche by watching Amazon’s Them. I knew about a week ago when I saw the title and trailer pop up on my Fire stick that I should leave it alone. But a rainy, gloomy Saturday and lack of other options at the time, my partner and I decided to watch.
And what did we see? Another Black family being tormented by White folks to the point of complete insanity. What the hell? How much more trauma and stress around the colour of our skin can one take? How many more of these movies do we need? Is the point to try to get white folks to understand our plight, our struggle? Or do these writers believe Black people are gluttons for punishment and we couldn’t possibly want to see, hear or think about anything else?
When we say we are tired, we mean just that. Tired of being murdered for just being Black; tired of seeing the videos being released by mainstream media; tired of the trials and the weak ass charges and slow verdicts; tired of having to explain this over and over to our white colleagues; tired of them acting like empathetic allies instead of angry co-conspirators; tired of watching the turmoil be played out in movie after movie, after movie. We are tired.
I know it is hard to find joy in times like this. But let’s see more Black love and marriage in some films, some babies growing up to take over the world through cryptocurrency, I don’t know, just something more than Black trauma that we already can’t get a break from in reality.
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