Unpacking My Emotions as a Black Mother
I’ll never forget the first week of July in 2016. Six weeks pregnant, I spent the holiday weekend sharing my exciting news with my close friends and family. On the morning of July 5th, 2016, I woke up to news reports and social media notifications about the murder of Alton Sterling, a 37-year old Black man from Louisiana who was shot six times at close range – for selling CDs. My stomach was in knots, not just from the baby, but from grief.
I remember going to work that day. Two of my coworkers shared my grief. However, the rest of the office seemed to operate as normal, with people sharing corny office jokes and weekend stories. How can they be so casual? I felt as though I had a weight in my chest while everyone else around me carried on as usual.
The next day, 32- year old Philando Castile was murdered during a traffic stop, in front of his girlfriend and her four-year-old daughter while the entire world watched on Facebook Live. Instead of the immense grief, I felt the previous day, anger began to form. Why? Why must we spend our days grieving and angry while the rest of the world keeps moving? That night, my husband and I went to a peaceful protest at our county courthouse. Dozens of people showed up and spoke about how they felt, shared art and poetry, and came together to grieve. Being in the crowd, not only did I find comfort in sharing my grief with others, but at that moment I felt a sense of responsibility wash over me. Being six weeks pregnant, we didn’t know the gender of our baby; but that night, amid the crowd, my son made himself known to me.
As I watched other mothers cry for lost lives and cry for the futures of their sons, something bonded me to their emotions. I cried with them, all of a sudden sharing the burden that Black and Brown mothers of boys bear in America. Somehow I just knew this would be my burden and blessing, I knew that within me I carried a strong Black and Latino boy, one that I would have to protect with every fiber of my being.
Fast forward to 2020. My son is now three years old. He is caring, affectionate, intelligent, and the light of our lives. He is empathetic, optimistic, brave, friendly, and says hello to everyone he crosses paths with. But one day, that may not matter to someone. Someone will look at him and only see the color of his skin and the coil in his hair. They will not see all the things that his parents, family, and loved ones see in him. They won’t see his potential. All they’ll see is a threat. And it breaks my heart.
On February 23, 2020, 25 – year-old Ahmaud Arbery was murdered by a father and son wanna-be vigilante duo. FOR JOGGING IN THE WRONG NEIGHBORHOOD. He was racially profiled and without any evidence, judged, and sentenced to death. Ahmaud was known to his family and friends as humble, selfless, funny. He helped his mother out around the house. He was in school trying to become an electrician. But all these two despicable individuals saw was a threat – a Black threat.
On May 25, 2020, just a little over a month later, 46-year old George Floyd was tortured to death for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, by a police officer and three other witnessing officers. George was a father, he was known as someone who always had something to give, he was a person. Now, he is a martyr.
I’ve found it difficult to verbally identify and process my feelings. George Floyd’s cries for his mother and mercy have played over and over in my head, like a scratched CD. When I lay with my son, I’m now more aware of his heartbeat, a sound that the first time I heard it, my life felt complete. As a mother, I couldn’t fathom that heartbeat that so precious to me, being snuffed out without remorse, without care, without mercy.
These last few days have been hard, to say the least. Watching my people and our allies protesting for basic human rights, generations of people tired of injustice, and seeing our “President’s” reaction; to incite and encourage more hate and violence has left me and many others in a vicious cycle of anger, grief, and exhaustion.
In 1619, the first African slaves were brought on to American soil. 400 years ago, our fate as a nation was sealed when this country was built with bricks made from the blood and bones of Africans and Native Americans. 400 years of oppression. 400 years of hate. A 400-year history that bears upon the shoulders of every Black American and that will eventually be put on the shoulders of my precious boy.
It’s not fair.
We are tired! We are tired of bearing this weight! We are tired of losing people in our community and being the only ones that grieve. We are tired of being oppressed! The Killing of George Floyd was just the tip of the iceberg of the oppression that Black Americans feel daily. Why should I have to feel sick every time I drive past a police officer, hands at ten-and-two, knowing I’ve done nothing wrong? Why should I watch the blood drain out of my husband’s face if we get pulled over as he cautiously reaches for his license and registration, trying to keep both of his hands visible at all times?
Why instead of “The Talk” about the Birds and Bees will my son have “The Talk” about what to do in an encounter with a police officer?
“All my life I’d heard people tell their black boys and black girls to “be twice as good,” which is to say “accept half as much.” – Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
The above quote from a must-read contains a phrase that I heard all my life. “Be twice as good”. My parents always told me this but never explained why. It wasn’t until I was older that I realized what they were really saying, “be twice as good, so they don’t have a reason to bring you down”. Myself and I’m sure other children with similar circumstances were raised to believe that if we worked harder than our non-minority counterparts, then maybe we could have a seat at the table. But as Mr. Coates articulately expressed, is it really fair to our children to drill them to work twice as hard to earn the same opportunities and freedom that their White counterparts are just given? Why will my son have to prove that he’s worth receiving basic rights and opportunities? Why will my son have to pay extra attention to the way he dresses, or the way he acts, or the music he listens to? Because of Trayvon Martin. Because of Tamir Rice. Because of Jordan Davis. We live in fear that our loved ones will become another name added to a long list of names of people who lost their lives due to the color of their skin.
Black Lives Matter.
That’s all I can say.
Black Lives Matter.
My son’s life matters.
I mourn with my people. I mourn for those that have made sacrifices, I mourn for those who we’ve lost, I mourn for the future.
Black Lives Matter.
We will never move forward as a country until we confront this ugly disease that has plagued this country for the past 400 years. No justice, no peace.
I wish I could end this post on a positive note, but my heart is too heavy right now. I pray that all find a moment of peace during these times. Hug your children tighter, call your parents, reach out to those important to you. Never stop fighting for justice.