Emantic “EJ” Fitzgerald Bradford Jr., 21;
Jemel Roberson, 26; DeAndre Ballard, 23;
Botham Shem Jean, 26; Antwon Rose Jr., 17;
Ramarley Graham, 18; Trayvon Martin, 17;
Wendell Allen, 20; Kendrec McDade, 19;
Jonathan Ferrell, 24; Jordan Baker, 26;
Victor White lll, 22; John Crawford lll, 22;
Michael Brown, 18; Ezell Ford, 25;
To my children;
I have lived so unaware for long. There is no end to the various privileges I own but didn’t earn. Even the things that I have considered luck or blessing in my life were probably due to that privileged position that allows what I think of as luck. And primarily it’s because of the color of my skin.
The most spectacular is the confidence I have that you and my grandchildren are safe.
All the while I knew of the useless violence and death. Intermittently it reached me and riled me. I wasn’t attentive enough. The sorrow I would then feel, and continue to feel, is the sorrow of all mothers who have lost their children needlessly. I still can’t pretend to know how it feels. But I get that I am accountable to recognize the loss. To endure the pain. To do what I can with what I have. The tragedy is for all of us to bear.
I want you to make this real. Try to imagine watching your children go out the door knowing that who they are makes them a target. Remember – they can’t have the privilege of making their choices in clothing. The wrong choice would increase the danger they face walking on the streets of our home towns.
In her article on racial violence in The New York Times,* Claudia Rankin quotes a woman on what it’s like to be the the mother of a black son. “The condition of black life is one of mourning,” she said bluntly, “Though the white liberal imagination likes to feel temporarily bad about black suffering, there really is no mode of empathy that can replicate the daily strain of knowing that as a black person you can be killed for simply being black: no hands in your pockets, no playing music, no sudden movements, no driving your car, no walking at night, no walking in the day, no turning onto this street, no entering this building, no standing your ground, no standing here, no standing there, no talking back, no playing with toy guns, no living while black.”
I acknowledge. I don’t know what all I can do about it. But I must speak out.
It is hard for me as a white woman to face the systematic socialization that has put fear in the hearts of the men and women who should protect us. Fear and ignorance make the protectors the perpetrators. It has given all of us a concept of separateness allowing us to think ‘us’ and ‘they’. It has allowed us to walk without thinking through life, not making room for those around us.
I have always cared. But I didn’t always know in my heart. I wasn’t aware. My education had gaping holes that left out the history of great segments of our people. It neglected to teach us as children that we were allowed privileges that could take the same privileges from others.
Looking back I see that even while rallying for human rights and railing against inequality I didn’t comprehend the immensity of of it. I didn’t count the personal human toll being paid minute by minute by people around me.
Enough! I know now. Not everything I should know, or could know, but I will keep learning as I speak out. I will be watchful and diligent.
I will say their names aloud. And mourn.
Kajieme Powell, 25; Laquan McDonald, 17;
Akai Gurley, 28; Tamir Rice, 12;
Mario Woods, 26; Tony Robinson, 19;
Freddie Gray, 25; Jamar Clark, 24;
Quintonio LeGrier, 19; Jordan Edwards, 15;
Stephon Clark, 22; DeJuan Guillory, 27;
Jonathan Hart, 21; Maurice Granton, 24
*”The Condition of Black Life is One of Mourning” June 22, 2014