By S. Rae Peoples
Originally Posted on LinkedIn on November 25, 2014
Yesterday I had my son watch the news with me, focusing on both the boy that was shot in Ohio, and Michael Brown, Jr.'s untimely death. He asked questions. I answered. He had words. I listened. I used these events as talking points and lessons for my son. Like the importance of following directions. Like why I do not buy toy weapons. Like how his actions and the choices he makes can literally be a matter of life and death for him. And how even when you make the 'right' choices, and take the 'right' actions that you think will preserve your life- the truth is that because he is a Black male, his life can still be snuffed out. He asked sweetly, "Why Mama?" And I gave him the truth: "Because there is no sacred regard for just how precious and beautiful your life is..."
These are the lessons I push for my son to understand. I have to. His life really does depend on it. It's a tug of war: pulling to teach him things so he can hopefully somehow increase his chances of survival. I find myself thinking more and more lately, "I just want him to live and see his 16th birthday. I just want him to graduate..." No mother should have to entertain such thought. And yet, against this pull to teach survival skills to my son, I find myself pushing up against this ridiculous duty of mine. Ferociously resisting my having to eek out a bit of his sweet and innocent childhood with every "lesson" our society reminds me to teach him. I mean, he's only 9 years old for crying out loud! The back and forth, push and pull, up and down of it all is so exhausting. On so many levels. It is both tremendously sad and taxing for both me and my son. Emotionally, spiritually, physically, socially, and mentally. All of the things.
And as if that aspect wasn't enough, I always find myself getting so pissed off at my white counterparts. I have anger and resentment. It undoubtedly stems from a level of jealousy. I am jealous because they get to raise their sons in a wonderful bliss of ignorance. They don't have to teach their beautiful sons how to hopefully survive to their 16th birthday. That luxury and right just is a given for them. Their sons can play and explore and fall down, and fail confidently and free from fear of dying at the hands of their justice system. Their sons bask and play in the innocence of a childhood that doesn't have to be soiled by the "Dos and Don'ts to Save Your Life" rhetoric that I give my son every.damn.day. I want that for my son. I want him to have an innocent childhood. I want him to know that he will live to succeed and fail and love. I want him to have the confidence that comes from such security. I want him to not just think of "My Life Matters" as a cry for help and justice, but as an affirmative statement. I want him to see those words as a reality, not just a possibility. But I can't have all this for my son. And that's why I'm pissed.
Apparently a mother's anger isn't enough. The anger of a community doesn't seem to be enough either. It's going to take more than this. It's going to take mother and fathers from every community getting angry with us. It's going to take every community realizing that the Black community is their community. And it's going to take these communities getting agitated beyond retribution at the ways in which life is being trampled upon, disrespected, and pushed to the point of damn near extinction. It's going to take more of us realizing just how intricately connected we are.
I am you. You are me. Your child is my child. My community is your community. It's going to take more of us understanding that there is no distinction. There is no him versus her. There is no I versus he. There is no us versus them. There is only Just. Us.