We Black mothers of Brown children have this clock in our heads. The running clock of when we know our children will be out of the danger zone of being ripped from the world by violence: Violence begotten by people within our own community, Violence begotten by people outside of our community, Violence begotten by strangers who don’t love us but who are assigned to intrude upon our community.
The clock runs, and usually slows to a stop around the time our children hit their mid-20s, early 30s. By then, our sons and daughters have learned all of the rules of how to move through our world without raising the alarms that go off in the heads of those who have been explicitly taught to fear us. They are no less powerful, but they have found enough grace and finesse in that power that they are able to navigate without the same constant threat of violence finding them.
Or so we thought.
It isn’t that I’m so naïve as to think that there is an expiration date on violence finding Black men. That somehow they will reach a certain age and become instantly inoculated against the vicious virus that is police fear and aggression that specifically targets our Black men. But then again, the Eric Garner video is jarring simply because I know that there are too many reasons why he shouldn’t have been taken down like that. Not the least of which being that he was a man who had so much stake in his community, his family, his experiences in life to know better than to provoke the aggression of ego-trippin’ police officers.
So when you see the video, and you see a man peacefully, non-aggressively, yet adamantly tell officers (who he literally has head and shoulders over) to leave him alone, you know in your heart that he’s right. And that he doesn’t deserve to be taken down like some monster on a sidewalk. Eric Garner, and all of our Black men–Our sons, our husbands, our fathers, our uncles–deserve better than to be taken down like some monster on a sidewalk.
Especially over some goddamned loose, untaxed cigarettes.
Are you fucking kidding me?
You killed a man over some goddamned loose, untaxed cigarettes? His life was worth less to you than some goddamned loose, untaxed cigarettes?
The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association put out a statement over the weekend (one of three, none of them appropriate), stating matter-of-factly: “Not wanting to be arrested does not grant an individual the right to resist arrest nor does it free the officers of the obligation to make the arrest.”
Mr. PBA President and Police Officers everywhere: Not wanting to resist your life-long brainwashing of being taught to fear and loathe and dehumanize men of color does not grant you the right to be a Black man’s executioner, nor does it free us as a community from loathing you, mistrusting you, monitoring (and taping) your every action, and taking umbrage to your very presence in our neighborhoods.
If you choose to perpetuate the notion that we’re all just suspects and nothing more. If you choose to train up generation after generation of officers in a language of fear and power. If you choose to create a police-state culture that places you as hunter and we as prey. If you consistently choose to place our lives in danger with every seemingly innocuous interaction that we have with you. If you ultimately choose to place into every officer’s head the mantra that our lives, Black lives, just don’t matter…
Don’t be surprised when we resist, scream, shout, fight, demand justice when we are wronged. Don’t be surprised when we look you in the eyes and tell you that we’re tired of being harassed. Don’t be surprised when we tell you, point blank, that the way you walk in our neighborhoods, the way that you speak to us, the way that you conduct yourselves while constantly intruding in our lives is aggressive, uncouth, and loathsome. Don’t be surprised when we tell you, in no uncertain terms, that our lives matter. Even if your brainwashing has told you otherwise.
The men of our lives matter. Black lives matter. They matter not because I say so, or because a grieving widow in New York implores so, but because we were created by the same God from the same clay and salt. That same God put breath into our lungs so that we may walk this earth and steward it, just as you were. Police officers do not have the right to snatch away that breath because they can’t seem to see beyond their fears and the weapons in their hands.
K.C. Wise is a married Millennial Mom raising two bi-racial (B/W) boys in suburban Massachusetts. You can find out her thoughts about mothering, homemaking, writing, renovating a 100 year-old farmhouse and other musings at her blog: blackbunchedmassmom.wordpress.com.