I recently went home to celebrate my father’s 70th birthday. My son and daughter delighted in seeing their grandfather light up with excitement as they ran around him in circles. I felt a sense of nostalgia going home. It was the first time that I had brought my children to the city I used to call home, it was the first time that they were in my childhood home and it was the first time they were able to see various generations of my family in one spot. I grew up in Rockford, Il. and extended family lived nearby in Chicago where the indictment of officer Jason Van Dyke took place last year for the shooting of LaQuan McDonald. I kept thinking about these various generations of family that were gathered together for my father’s birthday, there celebrating a joyous event, but over half of us could probably share stories of police misconduct, false arrests, mishandled cases and other similar stories. I’m sure half of us could point to a time where we were stopped and arrested by police arbitrarily. I’m sure we could all have our “police stories” to share. But we didn’t.
We were celebrating the fact that a black person lived more than 12 years like Tamir Rice, more than 16 years like Trayvon Martin, more than 18 years like Jordan Davis, more than 22 years like Sandra Bland.
We were celebrating the fact that we are more than our tragedies.
I have heard countless times what it means to raise black children. How hard it is to teach them how not to die in the presence of police officers. How to not look menacing or suspicious. I just have a hard time understanding how you can not look suspicious if the color of your skin is the very reason to draw suspicion in the first place.
As a mother, I can teach my children everything about life that I know and understand. I can show them a quality of life that can make them understand and appreciate life. But how do I teach them how to be defensive against police at the same time that I’m teaching them to trust them?
My heart hurts regarding the gun violence against black people at the hands of police officers. As a mother, I truly fear the racial climate I’m raising my children in. I understand as an educated black person where my privilege ends and begins. I also understand how far my hands reach at protecting my children from harm. And that makes me fearful.
Make no mistake, this is not a new phenomenon. The stereotype of black people being mistrustful of officers is not a new trend just like kale and collard greens are not a “new trend”
To look for solutions would mean you would have to look at the origins. I am a person who like to look at the root and its health before I venture to see if the problem is the stalk, the branch or the leaf. If the root is unhealthy, the outer tree remains unhealthy too.