The Threat of Desensitization

Over dinner tonight, Hope and I watched the evening news.  During the news, coverage on the murder of Terence Crutcher was shown.

If you haven’t heard of Mr. Crutcher, here’s the short version of how his life was cut short.

His car was stalled in the middle of a roadway. Police in Tulsa, Oklahoma were apparently on the way to an unrelated police call when they saw him.

Crutcher apparently thought they were coming to help him; they didn’t help him.

Despite initially walking towards the police, likely believing they were there to assist him, he realized that he was in danger and raised his hands above his head.

Helicopter video is online, along with the narration about how Crutcher wasn’t following directions and that he looked like a “bad dude, to be honest.”

He was hit with the stun gun, and shot beside his car.

More than two minutes went by before any life-saving efforts were attempted.

He was unarmed.

It’s just not right. It’s just not right.

I closed my eyes as the nightly news showed the video clip of Crutcher’s body laying alongside his car; it’s bad enough that he was shot and killed but the incessant need to show the bodies of dead people by the media specifically and public in general is just too much for me.

It is difficult enough to know that there is little dignity in life, but to be reminded that there is none in death is just beyond heartbreaking.

As I looked down into my bowl of pasta holding back my emotions, listening to Crutcher’s sister repeatedly say that his life mattered, Hope said, “I wonder what excuse they’ll come up with this time for this killing.”

She then went back to babbling on about band drama.

She didn’t miss a beat.

I read the response as, “This is something that just happens to us.”

And some days, it does just feel like that; this trauma is a chronic experience we are just enduring as black folks.

It’s kind of like what life felt like after 9/11; we begin a life under threat of terror. You go on about your life, day to day, year to year. There will be events, and they will be dramatic and traumatic. Despite our best efforts to “fight terror,” there is an acceptance that to some degree, this is just our life now.

Terrorism can happen at any time, anywhere.

We know that, and we accept it.

Terrorism can happen even alongside your stalled car as you think someone who is supposed to be there to help you, ends your life.

But the thing is, it should not be happening. All of this, the various types of terrorism, should not be happening.

This, this life of feeling like I should be deathly afraid of people who are sworn to help me, is something I do not want to be used to; this is not something I want Hope to accept as normal.

This isn’t anti-police, this is about being pro-life. I do not want to die with the need for an investigation into how and why I died.

Actually, I don’t want to die at all.

How could state sanctioned murder of unarmed black men become normalized? How could the shock of seeing black bodies lying in the street ever wear off.

Sure, Hope could’ve just wanted to get back to her band conversation (with which she seems obsessed!), but it was so jarring for me to think that in the last couple of years, that she might be desensitized to the routine of police overreach, overreacting, not helping, not being the good guys. .

Certainly her own history may numbed her emotional response to these events; maybe it’s Hope’s age that influences her responses. Maybe I read all of this all wrong.

Hopefully, maybe?

In any case, I’ve become acutely aware of a new threat to black lives: the threat of desensitization towards the death of unarmed black folks.

This threat is dangerous; the acceptance of these events as somehow normative can lead to the abandonment of efforts to seek justice. That is tantamount to giving up on justice.

I can’t accept that. How can I teach my daughter that justice…isn’t just elusive, but that because of the normativity of it all, that justice isn’t for us?

I don’t want that for my family.

I won’t talk about it with Hope tonight, but I’ll save it for another day as I ruminate on it. It is a conversation that we’ll have, though. I don’t need for her to emote like me, but I want to be sure that the gravity of this loss of life is never lost on her. I want her to live her life fully, without fear and without ever being used to injustice.

 

 

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About AdoptiveBlackMom

I'm a single Black professional woman living in the DC area. I adopted tween a few years ago, and this blog chronicles our journey. Feel free to contact me at adoptiveblackmom@gmail.com, on Facebook at Adoptive Black Mom, and on Twitter @adoptiveblkmom. ©www.AdoptiveBlackMom.com, 2013-2017. All rights reserved. (Don't copy my ish without credit!) View all posts by AdoptiveBlackMom

4 responses to “The Threat of Desensitization

  • thecommonostrich

    My heart hurt this morning when I heard this on the news. I really struggle with the balance between desensitization and my responsibility as a human to bear witness. As a rule I try not to watch footage of people dying because (I know this sounds a little nutty) that moment should be sacred. Death is a deeply personal experience, and it isn’t my place to gawk at it on YouTube. This is true for me with any human life. I just. can’t.

    However…

    This ability to see what’s going on in the lives of black americans has heighten awareness for a lot of people outside that community. When people are all “Where is this sudden increase in racism?!” that ignorance is largely being shattered by the ability to *see* what’s happening. I guess the question is where is that tipping point between a drumbeat for change vs. a white noise of violence. I have no answers, just a heavy heart.

  • Mel

    Thought provoking post.

    “When people are all “Where is this sudden increase in racism?!” that ignorance is largely being shattered by the ability to *see* what’s happening.” <—- Good point.

    Heavy heart. So true.

    It's hard to get the balance right between being respectful and letting people see what's going on.

    I don't know the answer. I sometimes find myself thinking…where is all this sudden increase in violence, in everyone. Maybe it was always there and I just didn't know about it. But I don't think so.

  • polwygle

    You have a gift to capture such deep thoughts and transform them into meaningful words. I have been pondering this all day. Thank you for constantly educating me!

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