Tag Archives: Black Voices

Mourning Ahmaud Arbery

On the day Ahmaud Arbery took his last run, 911 calls shine new ...

I refuse to watch the video of the murder of Ahmaud Arbery. I made a conscientious decision a few years ago to stop watching such videos. There is a part of me that wants to bear witness, but the reality is that I cannot take it. I simply cannot.

After years of watching Black men, women and children murdered by White folks has left me with a bit of a shattered heart.

How many more times am I supposed to duct tape it back together only to have it shattered again?

If you’ve been under a rock or just consumed by news of COVID-19 and nothing else, Ahmaud Arbery, a 25 year old Black man was shot to death by two White men while he was out jogging in a Georgia neighborhood back in February. Two men chased down Ahmaud in a truck, alleging that he was a burglary suspect and that they were attempting a citizen’s arrest. Never mind that reports indicated there had not been a burglary in the neighborhood since New Year’s. They chased him down the street, and with another neighbor in another car, boxed him in, confronted him and demanded that he stop. He allegedly fought back, and he was shot dead with a shotgun.

I can’t imagine the fear he must have felt when he realized the truck was following him, when the yelling started, when he realized he couldn’t run to safety, that he would have to fight for his life, and the moment when he breathed his last breath.

I walk Yappy just about every morning. We usually walk 1-2 miles. We walk in all of the seasons (unless it’s pouring as Yappy generally does not do rain!). I walk through 2-3 neighborhoods regularly. I try to let Yappy be my ambassador because the silly dog will happily greet just about anyone. Not that long ago, we ran into an White neighbor who noted that I “didn’t live around here.” His tone was clear. I replied that I lived nearby, but that I’d been walking Yappy on that street for 5 years, it’s odd he hadn’t seen us before. I made a point to wave at another neighbor who I see often on my walks. I avoided that block for a week afterward; I got the picture that I didn’t belong.

Thankfully, he opted not to hop in his Volvo and chase us down the street. He could have.

And hey, there’s new construction going up across the street. I walk by the home nearly every day. Have I checked it out? Sure. Did it ever occur to me that I could be seen as a burglar, be chased and murdered for checking out the new house? No.

When the video of Amhaud’s lynching went viral my heart sank. I didn’t need to see it. My heart broke for Ahmaud’s family, knowing that their son’s and brother’s last few moments were being consumed around the world. I found myself feeling despair.

This keeps happening, and we go through the paces again and again.

Black person is murdered for FILL IN THE BLANK while minding their own gotdamn business.

No arrest is made, and initial police reports are that it was justified.

Magical videos appear showing that the murder is not justified.

Character assassination of Black person begins along with the common refrain, “If Black person had just FILL IN THE BLANK, they would not have been shot.” (For Ahmaud it was a juvie record)

Arrest is made without incident. Sometimes there’s even a stop for food on the way to the jailhouse.

White murderer is rarely indicted by the grand jury.

Farce of a trial is had, typically resulting in a not guilty verdict.

And then we start it over again; unless some rando person decided not to wait and just gunned down another Black person who was FILL IN THE BLANK while minding their own gotdamn business.

Are you exhausted? I know I am.

And we can’t even march in the streets right now. Yes, we can call, email, text and share all kinds of information, but the desire to march in the streets and put our anger and our grief on display can’t happen because of the pandemic—which by the way we are disproportionately dying from as well.

It is traumatizing. Not just hearing about and watching someone else’s death, but also worrying about what I might be doing while minding my own gotdamn business that will get me killed. It is traumatizing and exhausting in a way that you can feel in the very marrow of your bones and in the soles of your feet. You just want to find a panic room and stay there, where it’s safe. But we know that’s not realistic—pandemic related stay at home orders notwithstanding. This persistent emotional trauma shortens our life, as if we needed anything else to worry about since we know that the healthcare system can be trash towards us.

Last week, I just spazzed out. I was emotionally spent. I’m still dealing with a lot of emotional stuff having to do with being sick and not being able to see my family and worrying about Hope’s future with the pandemic looming over her undergraduate plans. Work has not stopped churning, and unreasonable expectations of productivity persist. And then when I sift through social media, there are folks who expect Black folks to do the emotional labor of helping *them* through this difficult time.

I am weary, just weary.

It’s enough to just make me want to stay in bed forever. I tapped out a couple of days ago. I masked up and went stress shopping at the local market. Cake, ice cream, snacks, margarita mix, one lonely pack of baby spinach and a bunch of overpriced meat to put in the freezer. All told I spent a $100, and then I just sat in my car. I wanted to cry, but I couldn’t.

I still haven’t cried, and I need to so badly.

Hope knows how emotional I can be; she sometimes teases me about it. She knows when not to tease me; she’s constantly checking in to make sure I’m ok.

She’s still worried about me being sick. She still doesn’t understand how hard I work sometimes (we do not share the same work ethic; we are very different in that respect), but she does know the depression that covers me when a murder like Ahmaud’s happens.

The mourning is real. I wear it like a bathrobe. I sit with it. I try to bury myself in it. The sadness. The grief. The struggle to remember that #notall White folks are dangerous, that I had loving White people in my life who are dear friends and colleagues. I know it’s not everyone, but I also know that so many folks will stay silent about these injustices. Silence is complicity. If you are my friend, you say you care about me then you need to speak up and get your people together. Please don’t ask me what you should do—I BEEN TOLD YOU. Be an antiracist and get to getting your people together. Dassit.

There is so much despair, the despair about what will become of us as a people, and me and Hope as individuals—what will become of us? Are we safe? Should I keep walking my dog in the mornings? Even in the nice neighborhood across the way? Is there anyway I can figure out how to prevent something like this from happening other than to stay hidden in my house, like I’m on some underground railroad?

I can tell you that I didn’t survive the last few weeks of being sick for this shit.

When White folk ask me why I’m so consumed by race all the time I usually respond how could I not be? At every turn this society is quick to remind me that my and my family’s melanted skin can be a problem.

I am so very tired.

None of this is ok.

My faith in the justice system is limited. My belief that Ahmaud’s family will see real justice is limited. My belief that I am safe on my morning walk is non-existent. I know that even with a cute dog, walking down the street to get some exercise is threatening.

And there is nothing I can really do to change that.

It’s really just too much.


Black Beauty

Hope was home for the recent holiday, and while she was here, she decided to cut her hair. Hope had decided some time ago that she regretted relaxing her hair and wanted to “go natural” again. After about 7 months of growing it out, we snipped off the relaxed ends and basked in the glory that is now her little Afro.

Ok, so maybe I basked; Hope seemed beside herself with shock, anxiety and the ever present teen worries about how others would see her.

When Hope came to home nearly 5 years ago, she had a lot of hair that I lovingly nurtured right on down to her shoulders. It was not chemically treated. I twisted it, coiled it, braided it, did all kinds of things with it. Hope was really proud of her hair; she got a lot of compliments. She learned to really embrace how her naturally curly, coily hair looked.

Hope has thick hair. It’s not just that each strand is thick; there are also a lot of strands. I swear when I first started doing her hair, I thought I was wrestling a carpet!

As she got older, and I shifted more of the burden of doing her hair to her, things got…difficult. My daughter’s care-taking abilities didn’t produce the same results, and eventually she decided that she wanted to relax it.

I hated the idea. I wanted her to love her hair and to learn to properly care for it. It had been years since I’d given up relaxing my own hair, and there was a part of me that took it really personally that my daughter wanted to relax her hair.

I had failed to promote the beauty of our hair.

I had failed to foster a sense of pride in our hair in its natural state.

I had failed to cultivate a sense of beauty that didn’t adhere to Euro-centric beauty norms.

I had failed to get her to love herself.

In spite of these failures, I also support one’s ability to wear their hair however they please. So, I asked her hair dresser to relax her hair.

Oh there was lots of hair swinging. There were smiles. There was hair flipping. Hope’s hair grew and then…all the things that happened before the relaxer happened. Poor maintenance; lazy care, heat damage, split ends and breakage. There were a couple of heavy “trims” that took inches off.

And I was spending a small fortune getting her hair done.

We ended up in the same place as before, which made me feel as though my prior failures had been confirmed in this hair relaxing exercise.

Then one night I was watching hair videos on YouTube when Hope said she regretted relaxing her hair. She thought it would be easier, but it wasn’t.

I still have teeth marks on my tongue from where I nearly bit it off so as not to say, “I told you so!”

So she begin the journey to grow her hair out with the first major development happening during her fall break.

I’m delighted that she grew her hair out and that she wants to embrace the fullness and textures of her natural hair. That said, I know that rocking a teeny weeny Afro (TWA) is a shock at first. You see all your other features and you can feel weird about them.

Is my forehead really that big?

Were my ears so noticeable when my hair was longer?

I swear my acne was not this noticeable with bangs.

My nose is big.

My skin is so dark.

My teeth are big.

I need earrings to distract from this.

I don’t like the way I look.

People will make fun of me.

I’m never going to look like Becky (No, you’re right and you’re not supposed to.)

It’s all so loaded. Helping her reframe her thoughts about beauty is hard. Helping her think about the fact that six months from now she will have a lot more hair is hard. Helping her believe that she doesn’t need to “fix” anything is hard.

Self-acceptance is hard at almost any age; it’s especially hard at 17.

I think she’s stunning. Her chocolate skin is dark and creamy. Her almond shaped eyes sparkle. With the hair away from her face, her acne quickly faded. I finally was able to coax a pair of small, classy earrings on her. With her militaristic posture and figure I’d kill for, I think she’s an 18 out of 10.

But to hear her tell it, I’m mom so none that counts.

Understanding how oppression shapes even the way we see our beauty is exhausting; really, it is. Teaching that…it’s not only exhausting but also infuriating. I silently rage thinking about the fact that my daughter questions her beauty because kinky coily hair isn’t universally seen as gorgeous. I cut my eyes at the folks at her school who looked perplexed like they weren’t sure to compliment Hope when she returned rocking her afro. I nearly cried when she cast her eyes down when she saw folks see her hair for the first time.

Hope is gloriously gorgeous. She already doesn’t know how lovely she is; the short hair is a radical change that makes her glow. She doesn’t believe that though.

That’s not my fault even though I feel like I failed in instilling that.

It’s all of our faults. That nearly exclusive white standard of beauty is so embedded in our psyche that our brown and black kids hardly know and appreciate African diasporic beauty when they see it. And that makes me sad and mad, really mad.

I look forward to the day when my daughter looks in the mirror, smiles at her reflection and turns on her heels to go knowingly, purposefully slay us all.


Thoughts on Being Invisible in Adoptionland

Hope shared an interesting tidbit with me today. We were recently asked to participate in a video for our adoption agency recruiting other potential adoptive parents for older foster kids. We haven’t decided to do it yet, I’m leaving the decision up to Hope. She was telling me about the reaction she gets when she shares that she is adopted.

Hope said most of her peers are like, oh wow, that’s interesting. But, invariably, there is always at least one person who says they don’t believe her because her mom is black.

#recordscratch

Say what now?

Yeah, Hope says, kids think only white people adopt kids, especially black kids. They think we’re rare. That’s messed up, right?

Uh, yeah, that’s messed up. I am so done!

Of course, there are folks of color who adopt, but we’re largely invisible. Unless it’s a transracial adoption (POCs adopting white children) we just sort of blend in. Our voices in the adoption sphere tend to be muted and the few of us who are vocal and visible are just not enough of a critical mass for folks to take a shine to us. I just made the wonderful list by Healthline of the best adoptive mom blog (Second year! Woot, woot), but I’m the only person of color.

The only one.

This invisibility means that folks think we aren’t here. It leads grown folks and kids to think my daughter is just joshing them by saying she’s adopted because if it was true her parents would surely be white.

Sometimes it feels like the only reason we’re invited into adoption spaces is to help white people raise children of color with free advice and well wishes. This phenomenon makes it hard for people like me to construct our support systems, our villages. There may not be folks comfortable talking to us, building relationships with us, not having one-sided transactional relationships involving our kids. It makes for a lonely journey unless you hunt down and/or fall into your safe space that includes folks who are willing to share their lives with you.

Adoption journeys require intimacy.  As parents we open our homes and our lives to children; children who need homes have to find a way to learn to live with and hopefully trust these parents. The people around us don’t simply play voyeur; they often are parts of our extended family and close friends. Even if they don’t see everything; they see a lot. Parents and kids need specific support systems, and those systems must be safe enough to share some our darkest secrets about our wins and our challenges.

We are invisible, we aren’t able to even build the scaffolding necessary to create what we need.

It is so hard sometimes.

And on top of everything else, our absence from the adoption narrative makes kids doubt my daughter’s adoption story.

That’s effed up.


ABM & DAI

A few months ago, a good pal named Tao from The Adopted Ones, reached out to me with news that The Donaldson Adoption Institute was accepting blog pitches. I enjoy writing, and I feel strongly that voices of people of color in the adoption community are woefully underrepresented.

So, I decided to submit some ideas.

I’m delighted that the organization thought my voice was important and valuable. I’m also totally jazzed that the good folks there have decided to feature my story in honor of Black History Month.

Gosh, I feel special.

I’m happy to post a link to the first of a two-part series from me over on the Donaldson Adoption Institute blog.  Be sure to stop by their Facebook page and hit them up on Twitter too!

HOW I GOT HERE

dai

And yes, I am using my IRL name in addition to my pen name. 🙂

 


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