Needless to say, Hope and I have been having some tough conversations about being Black lately. Last week I allowed her to stay up with me to watch the announcement about how the grand jury failed to indict Darren Wilson in the murder shooting of Michael Brown. My daughter sat on the couch next to me, watched me sob throughout the totally unsurprising announcement. She watched me curiously while I sat slack jawed as the prosecutor went on to characterize Brown is a monster of sorts deserving of a kill shot despite having no weapon of his own, other than his large commanding size and dark skin.
I saw Hope clench her fists and get angry.
I wanted to write something about it last week but really, all I could think about was the words used by my dear pal, ComplicatedMelodi: “Man…I’m trying to raise a kid here.” I got nothing else.
I’m trying to raise a Black kid in this world.
And I’m trying to do it while there is an apparent need for a hashtag called #blacklivesmatter.
Sigh. That’s effed up.
And there was another grand jury failure this week in the case of the illegal, chokehold killing of Eric Garner, a killing that was predicated on an approach of Garner on the suspicion of selling loosies.
Yeah, loose cigarettes. Somebody got choked to death because he was suspected of selling individual cigarettes on a corner in New York.
So, when Hope heard about Garner all the questions started again. Damn, we just went through some of this ish last week.
Hope likes data; I love that about her since I’m also a researcher.
She’s come to a number of conclusions that are hard to refute.
- Racism is alive and well.
- Sometimes there is no justice and no peace.
- That Black lives matter less. Oh, they still matter, but it’s clear that they matter less than other lives.
We were in the car last night, listening to coverage of protests and snippets of think pieces. One discussed the need for more police officers of color. Hope practically yelled, “Sure hire them, but that doesn’t mean we’ll get justice.”
I’ve long said that the realization that the world can be so unjust is like eating from the tree of good and evil. The knowledge is essential to survival, but is devastating—especially when you might be in a category that gets the justice short stick. Sometimes you wish you just didn’t know how effed up things really are.
I tell Hope that all White people are not bad, they aren’t racist. We talk about the various people in our lives who are good people; she needs that evidence. We talk about how to move through the world having hope for change, all while I’m praying that our other forms of social privilege are enough to compensate for the lack of privilege, or apparent equity, based on race.
And that, my friends, makes for some effed up prayers.
“Lord, please let us be middle class enough to not get shot going to get Slurpees down the street in our neighborhood.”
“Lord, please let this hard earned Dr open closed doors for Hope, who is delightfully gritty in ways that might make her seem defiant to authority figures, placing her very life in jeopardy.”
And we talk about how to act during traffic stops, how to act at the school bus stop, how to act at the 7-11 or bodega, how to act at the bowling alley we frequent, how to act if you get singled out in your group of friends when you’re the only Black kid…the list goes on and on about how to act so as to be perceived as somehow non-threatening and accepted to be wherever it is you happen to be.
This is exhausting. It’s also messed up.
And it gives me little time to really think about just how devastated I am by the injustice I see. It gives me little time to ponder some of the ish I read when I happen to scroll down the page of an article and dare to read comments that are laden with racist filth. It gives me little time to think about how to respond other than we can do better, we should be doing better, we’re capable of doing better, so why aren’t we doing better?
I listen to my elders and hear them note how some things have changed and how some things haven’t. Lately it’s more of the latter. And I wonder what the hell to say to that.
It’s so painful and so sad, and I just have no more words.