I could go into a long pedagogical dissertation about allostatic loads or adverse childhood experiences but why complicate a simple premise. I will let the fear of a little girl speak for me:
The above incident took place in upstate New York, in an area I lived near for three years in the early part of the 2000s. I was emotionally moved by the terror on that little girl’s face because, as the grandfather of three young women, I remember imploring their dads, to protect them from all manner of harm. Fortunately, I could see and hear the pain on the face and in the voice of the officer when she knelt and said, “ we are not all bad.” Magnify that little girl’s fear 20 fold in the case of Breonna Taylor or 40 fold in the case of George Floyd and maybe, just maybe you can understand why black men and women panic in the face of police intervention in our lives.
I spoke to my youngest son a few days ago, he was bemused by the quiet and peace of he and his wife’s new suburban neighborhood. The thing he liked most was being able to go to a store or a gas station or a convenience store and not feel as though he was living in occupied territory. Not that the police are not present, but the aura of predisposed suspicion was less prevalent. I warned him to stay vigilant. The only black Republican Senator, Tim Scott, had his veracity questioned at one point by security when he tried to enter the Senate building.
Now let me tell you about the fears I have for my black sons. Every day I know they leave their homes driving good cars, going to good jobs, in good surroundings with good intentions. Then I think, so was Philando Castile, then I think so was Amadou Diallo, then I think so was Ahmaud Arbery, then I think so was Sean Bell. All the previous names were of hard-working black men with good cars, good homes, good jobs, and good intentions. The thing they all have in common is that they were all shot and killed by the police.
I do breathe a sigh of relief when I get a funny meme, joke, or hello dad in my text messages at the end of a day. I do breathe a sigh of relief when the news ends and my sons’ names are not part of some unarmed black male shooting story. I do breathe a big sigh of relief when I say to myself, “ my sons have not been killed for being black today.” My sacred legacy is that of two black men, nine black grandsons, three black granddaughters, and one black great-grandson and the world has taught me that their lives are still tenuously compromised.
As harrowing or as desperate as I might sound, for black Americans, our lives not mattering is nothing new. What is frightening is that despite the light shone on the extrajudicial executions, police have been emboldened not chastened. Government reform touted police body cams as the panacea that would stop street executions; instead, they have become training films for what to say, ‘he tried to grab my gun,’ how to obscure,” I don’t know why my body cam was off’ and distract to avoid detection, ‘you did not see the full context.’ I do not need a murder to be put into context, OUR LIVES MATTER!
Vote in 2020 for Change.