I vividly remember the night I sat on my parents’ bed, rocking my niece to sleep, watching the news of the murder of a young teenager Black boy wearing a hoodie, clutching a bag of skittles. In my mind, I tried to visualize the scene. How fast was the boy walking? What song was playing in his head? What color skittle was in his mouth? Then I began to try to figure out what threat he displayed. As I held my few months old niece, I began to fear for the world she was birthed into and asked God to help teach her how to not only survive but succeed in this world. Then my thoughts shifted to my brothers because Trayvon Martin could have easily been either of them. I wanted to go talk to my younger brother and give him some advice on what to do if he found himself walking alone at night – I had nothing.
In the years since then, it seems this same scenario has been replayed across the country with no age discrimination.
Upon returning home last Thursday after leaving family in Tennessee, I sat on my bed in my usual position, head down, phone in hand and scrolling. One of my best friends told me that she enjoyed her day and was happy that she got home from the Galleria when she did. While on social media, I read blips of an event that occurred just hours ago. I turned on the tv and watched the news while the reporters attempted to describe a shooting that had taken place on Thanksgiving night. My mind began to race, wondering if I knew anyone who had been there and if they were safe. I kept watching trying to understand what happened and why. Initially, I thought that the fight for sale items had gone too far. I had not attached a face or race to the shooter. I just kept wondering if I had known anyone there.
It has been almost a week, and I was not going to write about this topic even though the thought crossed my mind a few times. As time passes, more truths (yes, truth is relative) about that night’s chaos has been revealed. The one piece I read today truly hurt my heart (not quoted verbatim): “one mother wrote that the shooter, a 21-year-old black man, who had been fatally shot by the police, had helped her and her child to safety. She stated that he could not have possibly heard what the police said because she barely heard the call of active shooter much less anything the police had said in their efforts to serve and protect. She said the next thing she knew he was laying on the floor.” My mind went to not only my brothers and my young nephew but every single black man in my life, my circle, in my path.
I have one black student in my class. A black boy being raised in a racially and culturally diverse family loved by a Christian white couple. Teachers share things they have learned about their students with the next year’s teachers. I received information about this boy that proved to be false. He was labeled as autistic (even though we are not in a position to diagnosis but merely suggest testing or professional assistance). I did not take the information to heart but wanted to learn for myself. Not having much experience with autism but having read about it, he displayed no warning signs. My primary concern for him was to verbalize his feelings beyond tears. Crying is fine, but you need to tell me what’s wrong so I can help. But crying when you are wrong, and then receive punishment for the wrongdoing is not okay. Tears? Yes. But sobbing? No. This is my rule and applies to male or female, black, white, Asian, whatever. What I have learned about my student is that he is unique and sensitive; he is quick and imaginative; he is bright and stubborn. During parent/teacher conferences, I learned that his parents teach love and acceptance beyond skin color. I thought that was very admirable. Since this shooting, my concerns about him growing up as a black boy in this world grew. The grim conclusion is that regardless of how he is raised, how much knowledge he attains, how much love is in his heart, or who is parents are, all the world will see is a black boy. He will still be judged by the color of skin and not by the content of his character.
My prayers are unspoken. My tears are unending. My heart longs for the day for the dream to become reality.
Give love. Get love. Dream on.