Friday, August 22, 2014

Mourning a Life Lost and Grieving a Hard Reality

"That thug has ruined the officers way of life and career. He will have to move out of state to even be employed as an officer."

This, recently in the comments of a piece I was reading about Mike Brown and Ferguson

Oh, comments sections, what awful things you do to my soul. 

First of all, I get that not all the facts are in on this. But it blows my mind that people are mourning the *potential* loss of a WAY OF LIFE without mourning the *actual* loss of a LIFE. 

Secondly, if I never hear some black kid- or anyone for that matter, like you know, the president of the United States (unbelievable)- called a thug again, it will be too soon. 

And I'm finding people that want to talk about this kid smoking pot to be increasingly difficult to tolerate. Because? So did a ton of white kids both Peyton and I were friends with in high school. Who are ALL, incidentally, still alive. 

Someone I'm friends with on Facebook engaged me in another thread on my wall and she talked, among other things, about how the image of a black male in baggy pants is frightening to many folks. 

Which, right, some people are on edge when they see that image (ahem, person) coming up on them in the street. That's my problem. I was that girl for a loooong time. Up until this year actually. And I'm so glad I'll never be her again. I see that image every day now and it doesn't bother me in the least. I walk past the projects with my small people. I was tired of being scared of people who look and dress differently. And while gun violence happens in the communities we love and are a part of here, it's not as common as people think. 

My friend also mentioned a media slant, biased against the police officer who killed Brown. But it goes both ways. The media is often going to show a picture of a black kid looking "scary" rather than another one. There's been a great hashtag recently- #iftheygunnedmedown. You see the same black kid (or adult) in one shot dressed in a cap and gown and in another dressed in what we'll call "urban street clothes". Young black mean shouldn't have to walk the streets in their diploma receiving duds for people not to think of them as a threat. 

And as far as being perceived as a threat, that's the reality. A reality I have grieved daily for my brothers and sisters as I've watched this unfold. The reality is that I will NEVER have to have a conversation with Graves about the many things he needs to do if he's ever involved in an altercation with the police. That's not something on my radar. For many raising brown boys, though, it's high on their priority list to teach their sons exactly what words to say and what actions to take. Including, among other things, "both hands visible" and expressing emphatically that they don't have a gun in their possession. Two things, which depending on which side of this story is accurate, may not get them very far. 

I've tried to be discerning in what I link to and the ways I spout off opinions. But this is so heavy on my heart. As a mother. As an alley for people of color who are now a very real part of my life. As a human.

I want to see a better America. I hope to see it in my lifetime. I hope in his lifetime, my little fair, blue- eyed boy sees his dark skinned friends treated with the same respect and dignity he is. Because until that happens, we will never see this country as "an oasis of freedom and justice", something Dr. King dreamed of for my beloved Mississippi one hot August day fifty one years ago. 

That was his dream, but the reality he described was a land "sweltering with the heat of injustice...sweltering with the heat of oppression". 

Another hot August and I can't help but feel that sweltering heat is still alive and well. 

I long to see the reality defeated and the dream realized. And I pray that this tiny privileged white girl from the Mississippi suburbs whose body had been trained to tense when she saw the image of a brown body with baggy pants, and gold chains, and a big grill walk by will have some small part in that change.  

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