I’ve been very silent. Painfully silent. I’ve kept my opinions to myself, my voice to myself. I haven’t spoken aloud my thoughts, fears, or frustrations. The numerous times I’ve wanted to do so on this blog and haven’t are way too many. I’ve wanted to keep it close to sterile, focusing on Honeybee and the process, our family, and the good of the world. Then, with all of the things that have been happening lately, it has become more than apparent that this world that Honeybee and Superbug are going to inherit is looking very different from my views as a child.
This week, last week, and the week before the news have been heavily peppered with stories of unarmed African-Americans being killed or dying under mysterious circumstances. Some were killed while worshiping. Another died after a traffic stop where an arrest probably should not have happened in the first place. The last was killed by a campus police officer in a video so heinous that ALL of his supervisors and the leaders in the city have completely and totally distanced themselves from the shooter. While I believe one case was simply an overreach after finding someone who knew their Constitution rights and being upset that they wouldn’t back down, the others have clear racial overtones. It bothers me. It scares me.
I remember when I was a young preteen sitting in the dining room of my great-grandmother’s home in the South. She was recounting stories of racial injustices she herself experienced. She spoke of how the family was treated fairly well because they were considered “coloreds who knew their place”, but how when things were fruitful for the family and not so much for others in the community, our family was often racially targeted. She spoke of knowing not to go out after dark in certain locations, of certain men to avoid, of men castrated for looking at white women. She then said, “I’m glad things aren’t that bad now”. She believed that my cousin and I wouldn’t have to deal with the same when we grew up.
For the most part, she has been correct. I’ve not experienced the blatant racism that she did, at least not on a daily basis. Sure I’ve experienced my share. I’ve been called the “n-word” [to my face] twice as an adult in tow separate incidents and once as a child. NONE of my friends or close associates use the word and for that I’m grateful. I’ve heard it yelled at me quite a bit more and directed at my children a few times in the past two years. I’ve also been followed in quite a few stores of affluence and even one resort gift shop despite having spent quite a bit of money to stay at resort in the first place. However, it should be noted that since the Confederate flag was taken down in SC, I’ve seen more hate-filled looks directed my way and have seen more Confederate flags flown in my town that I’ve ever seen. That is always so strange to me as the Confederate flag never bothered me. It’s a symbol. I can choose to cower beneath it or disregard it. Cloth doesn’t instill fear so I choose the latter. But the hate that fuels the looks…that bothers me.
It bothers me that the future generations my great-grandmother had faith in seem to be more and more directed toward racial distrust. More and more people are being taught to hate. My son is almost nine years old and has already had one little boy tell him that he cannot play with him because he is “brown”. He had an incident on the playground where he was asked to play “racist” and ignore another student. A wonderful representation of his faith, he said no, went over and embraced the peer and played with him instead. When he told me about both incidents, I told him how proud I was of how he handled each one. I explained that some people were going to treat people differently because of the way they looked. I explained it was wrong and unfortunate, but it would occur. I told him to continue with a head held high and shoulders straight. And after all of that discussion, I hugged and kissed him and told him I loved him. And then I went into a room and cried. The first incident happened when my son was 7. My seven-year-old had just been discriminated against in a neighborhood that I and my husband had purchased property in after noticing that it was such a diverse neighborhood and in land where my family and friends were putting their lives on the line daily as military and law enforcement officers. Where was the fairness in that?
One day Superbug isn’t going to be nine. He’s going to be 19. Prayerfully, he’ll be in or on his way to college. I hope and pray for his protection. I want to him to safe while driving. I want him to be safe while shopping. I want him to be safe while walking home from a store. I want him to be safe while praying. It terrifies me that he may not merely because of his skin tone.
My thoughts don’t stop at Superbug. At Superbug’s 19, my Honeybee will be 11. How will this world embrace her? In a hypersexualized world where it appears women of color are celebrated for bodily assets and not mental intellect, I worry. I plan to and already teach her that she is smart, articulate, and capable of thinking her way out of any situation well before she gets into it in the first place. But weren’t those thoughts similar in the mind of Sandra Bland? Didn’t Sandra know her Constitutional rights? Didn’t she try to speak those rights to an officer who clearly didn’t like the fact that she wasn’t cowering to his authority?
Yes, it is always advisable to follow the instructions of an LEO. Here’s the thing–things he was asking of her were a violation of her Constitutional rights. She gave him her license and insurance proof. In the state of arrest, she did not have to answer any other questions. She was threatened with a Taser to get out of the car. Here’s the thing. Her getting out of the car was not a part of the traffic stop. The stop was for failure to signal. The law states that she was not required to leave her vehicle unless it interfered with the traffic stop. Removal for the vehicle had nothing to do with that. The request to put out a cigarette in a private vehicle is not in anyone’s law book anywhere. She knew that and questioned why she had to put out the cigarette. Several discrepancies occurred and her final statements were akin to seeing the officer in court to discuss the rights violation that she was recording before he made her stop (against the law also). Suddenly she is dead from suicide when she’d JUST accepted a job offer to return to her beloved alma mater in a role she loved, when she’d JUST informed LEOs that she would be suing? Sigh.
I’d hate to think that of the grief her family is feeling. Their loved one was very outspoken on social and political issues. I wonder how many times they worried about her candor and wondered if it would cause harm to befall her? I wonder if they wept because the now suspect they were right.
A couple of weeks before my birthday I saw a post during a simply Google search. It was a cartoon where a teacher asked a class what they wanted to be when they grew up. One little boy raised his hand and stated “Alive”. I agree. I want to be alive. I would love to live to 95 with good health and a great mind.
I truly pray that can happen. I want to live to see grandchildren and great grandchildren and great great grandchildren. I want my children to live to have them.
I want my husband to live to be “Papa” or “Grandpa”. I want women to stop clutching purses when he walks by. I want us to be able to enter a store in our chill clothes (jeans and T-shirts) and not be followed in the store like when we wear business suits and work badges. I want to be able to drive home in the afternoon without the guy in the black jeep flying the HUGE Confederate flag pulling up beside me and glaring at me as in confrontation. I want people to treat each other as human beings and work toward mutual decency and family values like we had growing up. Sigh. I just want to live.
Shawnell, it's unfortunate that these thoughts even have a presence in our minds. I am blessed to know, love, and fellowship with people of all races, creeds, and cultures. Wouldn't it be great if that was always the case everywhere?
YES!! Thank you!