America is a great country that stands for equality for all, but we sure aren’t living it these days.
I am a white woman. I have children, including a 20-year old son. I do not worry that my son will be shot down by police if he happens to be walking in the middle of the road late one night.
I also have a 24-year old brother. He is African-American. For about a year, he lived with me in my small town just outside of Atlanta. I worried every single time he left the house that he would be pulled over, or questioned in a store, simply for having black skin.
There. I said it.
Yes, having black skin made him immediately suspect. I noticed when people grabbed their purses a little tighter when he walked by. They locked their car doors if he was crossing the street when they were stopped at a light. And I warned him, as he drove my car, that he would always want to drive not one mile over the speed limit, and be following every law, because I had no doubt police would be more likely to write him a ticket or even accuse him of stealing a car that so obviously belonged to a white woman. I had no statistics or evidence that this would happen…just observations that in my suburban town, the numbers of non-white people pulled over sure seemed disproportionate.
I worried about him every day. Much more than I worried about my own son who was just as likely to speed, or look the wrong way at an officer. That could merit a stern warning. But for my brother with black skin, it would more than likely lead to more serious penalties.
Now, a teen just like him is dead. Younger, actually. For doing something, or nothing, who really knows, but something that if he were a white teenager probably would not have ended in his death.
I do not have the details of went down in St. Louis. But it can’t be coincidental that all of these young black men who have died at the hands of the law, or vigilantes, or neighborhood watch volunteers, provoked their own deaths.
I’ve heard that argument. That the teen somehow ‘asked for it’. Let’s pretend that was your son. Spend two seconds thinking about how you would feel if police killed your child under these circumstances. You’d be pretty raging mad, too, wouldn’t you?
I’m really tired of standing by quietly on an issue that boils down to the color of skin.
I’m so ashamed to admit it, but yes, racism is still alive in the South, even in cities like Atlanta where we have an African-American mayor, and many African-American leaders.
But we aren’t just talking about the South. These senseless killings of young African-American men…they’re happening all over this country.
Yes, this country has come a long way. How else could we have an African-American President?
But it sure feels like we’re moving backwards now.
I remember years ago hearing Maya Angelou say it wasn’t good enough to disapprove of a word or action…That we needed to speak out about our disapproval. Specifically, she said if someone heard another person use the term ‘nigger’ and said nothing, they were just as bad. I swore then I would never allow that word to be used around me. I’ve kicked people out of my home for it…people know that word won’t be tolerated around me.
They should also know it’s not ok with me that these children are being killed. I don’t think I have to be a woman with black skin to feel the loss, to be outraged by the senselessness of it all.
I don’t know what writing this will accomplish, but I’m willing to do more. Much, much more.
I want my friends who happen to be African-American to know that I grieve with them. I don’t think their children are somehow ‘animals’ or monsters who ‘asked for it’. I want them—and everyone—to know I also grieve for the loss of these children. And fear what is to come in America if change isn’t made soon to start holding those accountable who are allowing this kind of senseless tragedy.