When I was 19 and pregnant I remember praying, “Dear God please let me have a boy.” For weeks I only looked at baby boy things and had picked out a boy name. I was convinced that raising a son would be easier than a daughter especially if I was going to be a single mother. I thought about the challenges my mother faced raising me and the things I went through during adolescence. I just couldn’t imagine the emotional rollercoaster ride that I believed came with raising a girl. Boys break hearts and girls get their hearts broken. Boys also break the hearts of their mothers.
Months later I gave birth to a beautiful girl. Today I am the mother of two girls, both daughters, who make me happier than a man ever could.
Each time I read or hear a news story about a black boy being shot, a story that never seems to end in justice, my heart breaks.
It breaks for the son I once dreamed of, the son I foolishly thought would make my life easier. It breaks for the children I serve in the community, children who feel like mine. (As a mother it often feels like the nations children’s are mine regardless of their skin color). It breaks when I realize that people I thought were my friends uphold the same ideals that have resulted in a broken system. A system that wasn’t designed to serve justice to black people.
In a way that almost feels cruel, I find myself thanking God that he didn’t give me a son. Because I couldn’t imagine sitting beside him watching the news as an underlying message that says “YOU DON’T MATTER!” is shouted from across news stations.
I couldn’t imagine giving birth to a son and praying that he makes it to adulthood not because I fear illnesses and freak accidents but because I fear the justice system will continue to fail us. Knowing that each time he walks out the door he is likely to be profiled and judged. I wouldn’t want to have to explain to him the reality that he cannot afford to make the same careless mistakes that his white counterparts make because they can cost him his life.
I couldn’t imagine wondering if I would be able to cheer for him from the bleachers at his first game or from the front row at an academic decathlon. I can’t imagine wondering if I will get to watch his father tie his tie on prom night or see him walk across the stage to get his diploma. I can’t imagine holding my breath each night until he walks in the door.
I couldn’t imagine sending him off into a world that holds little to no regard for his life. I couldn’t imagine teaching him things like don’t make eye contact with a police officer or to avoid wearing hoodies or walking around in white neighborhoods. I wonder if I would encourage him to become a part of the law in hopes that he wouldn’t be at risk of being a victim of it.
Today I am disgusted, disheartened and grateful that I don’t have a son.
I am old enough to know that girls break hearts too – but not in this case. In this case, a justice system created by white males broke the heart of not just Mike Brown’s mother but the mothers of black children across the world. Today my heart broke too.
I have yet to really engage in a real conversation with my daughter about Ferguson yet. I worry about telling my children more than they really need to know, not to mention I’m still processing things myself.
I haven’t said much to my daughter beyond the fact that we live in a world where people are still judged for the color of their skin where they are seen as less valuable. That Mr. Brown was more than a fictional character in a Dr. Seuss book. He was a real human being. Someone’s friend. Someone’s child. His death was tragic. And for some, Michael Brown was a beacon of hope, hope that finally the world would see what we parents of black children know: black lives matter.
I sit here asking God to give me the right words. How do I tell my daughter what happened without causing her to fear the police or to fear the world we live in? I so desperately want her to hold onto the innocence of childhood because before I know in the world will be knocking ready to snatch it away.
I don’t want her to go to bed fearful that the people she loves — her father, her grandfather, uncles and cousins — are in danger or trying to answer a question so many of us are asking despite already knowing the answer: Why?
Months ago my brother was stopped while walking down the street because he fit the profile of a suspect. As a child, my dad would get stopped when he drove to pick me and my brother up. It was the price he paid because we lived in a neighborhood that was not known for its diversity but really, it was a price he and my brother paid for being black, something they had no control over. I am proud to be a black woman and married to a black man. I am proud to have birthed two beautiful black babies. Tomorrow we will rise, hold our heads up and continue to navigate life in a world that repeatedly tries to tell us what we are less than…
But today I will hold my babies in my arms and tell them how much I love them. I will tell them that they are precious and priceless. And when they go to sleep I will pray that one day our nation sees what I see when I look at them and their male counterparts.
Despite what the news portrays, beneath their brown skin I see promise.