No crafts tonight. Tonight, I want to address something very serious that affects many, many people in recent weeks.
In the wake of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile’s shooting deaths at the hands of the police this week, and the growing number of other unjustified black killings, both male and female, that is what I feel. A soul deep, all pervasive, mind numbing fear.
As most of you know who read this blog regularly, I am a black woman with a gay white husband and two beautiful biracial girls. The climate in this country right now is very racially charged, and the overall view of the police by black people is frighteningly negative. This post is not a rant about police in general, not by any means. I grew up with a few people who became police officers, and there isn’t one of them I wouldn’t trust with my life or the lives of my family.
The problem is the ones I don’t personally know, and this is what I fear. It is one thing to teach my children about stranger danger, to warn them against predators and pedophiles and the like. Strangers, where my children are concerned, are guilty until proven innocent. Protecting my children trumps your being offended that I am cautious around you, the stranger, because you could
be a monster. But I have always taught my children to trust the police. “If you get separated from me, find a police officer.” “If you are in trouble, find a police officer.” Now, I wonder, how can I tell them to do that? The police are supposed to be good men and women who uphold the law and protect the innocent. Yet when a disproportionate number of black people are being killed by members of that same force, the question then becomes “How do I protect my children from the police?” Like a stranger, I have no way of knowing which police officer is good and which one bad. I can’t look at them and tell. When the victim has complied with every order issued by the officer and is still killed by that officer, what do I do? Do I teach my children to avoid the police when they are lost and in trouble? And if I do that, who do I instruct them to turn to? I’ve avoided giving them cell phones. I just don’t like the idea. I think they’re too young to have that responsibility. But I wonder now if I shouldn’t get them phones and tell them to hide when they are in trouble, and I’ll find them by tracking their GPS signals.
As a mother, I am terrified for my children, for my family members, my friends. When you are a person of color in this country, there is no safe haven for you. You can’t decide where you’re going to live based upon whether or not you like a house you’ve just seen. Always, always, you have to think as though you are behind enemy lines. If I move here, will my family be accepted, or will someone burn a cross on my lawn, at the very least?
The saddest part is that this line of thinking is taught in black families from infancy. We don’t even think about it, and we don’t sweat it because we’ve never known any other way. And it’s generational. I was raised to think that way, and I’ve already started preparing my children to think that way.
We live in a world that will always see my children as black because of their darker skin tone, when they are half white. But that part of their heritage will be discounted because of the color of their skin. And it’s my job–and their father’s–to prepare them for how the world will treat them because of that.
It terrifies me to know that they can be shot to death for no apparent reason, just because they are not white enough. The officer who shot Philando Castile discharged his gun several times into a vehicle that contained a four-year-old child. If nothing else, that alone is reprehensible. Where was his concern for possibly injuring or killing that child? All in all, that family was fortunate only one of them was killed. But that child is likely to need therapy for years after what she witnessed.
Let’s be honest here: I didn’t ask to be here. None of us did. We are all descendants of people who were enslaved hundreds of years ago and brought here against their will. That’s fact. And we have nowhere else to go now that we are here. We are no longer actually African. Most of us don’t even know what African tribes we descend from. We have no place there. Our culture is such that we wouldn’t fit in. Yet neither are we fully accepted here. This is made obvious by the injustices visited upon so many of us. Where can we go? What can we do to feel safe? How do we protect our children? I can teach them to comply and be respectful, but Philando Castile was respectful and compliant, and he is still dead today.
We are no different to anyone else in this country. We want the same things for our lives and families. We have the same feelings. And most of the black community has even embraced Christianity, a religion that was foreign to our ancestors. What more can we do to prove that we are no different from anyone else? Why are we so hated? Evil walks amongst every race on this planet, so please don’t point at the few who apparently make the rest of us look bad. Not every white person is a bigot, not every black person is a thug, not every Jewish person is a rich attorney, not every priest is a pedophile…the stereotypes go on and on and on. Please start judging people on their own merits, not what you think you know based upon the color of their skin.
I am scared, the more so because I so believed this country was progressing. There are more interracial couples and families every day. The LGBT community finally got the rights they should have had decades ago. We elected a black president–twice in a row! And all of that progress makes all of this hatred just that much more shocking, that much more alarming, that much more frightening. I have spent this day in tears after seeing those two very graphic videos, wondering if my children or their friends would make it to adulthood intact. How is that fair? Why should anyone have to think that way, and about their police force, for the gods’ sake?
I love my children, the same as anyone else of any other race, and I want the same things for them. Aren’t there enough things out there in the world capable of taking them from me without adding in bigotry?