What do you see when you look at these faces?
Do you feel scared? Threatened? At-risk?
How anyone could feel so threatened by these beautiful brown faces that they don’t think their life has any value is beyond me, because when I look at them, I see literal representations of my own heart. The very same blood that courses through my body flows through theirs.
I see beautiful skin.
I see curious eyes.
I see a hardworking husband.
I see innocence.
I see intelligence.
I see potential.
I see value.
I see love.
My hardworking husband, so selfless and loving. How do I keep him safe? My beautiful children, so full of promise. How can I protect them? I am their mother, that is my job! I carried each of them in my womb their very heartbeat mirroring my own. I’m supposed to be able to keep them safe, they are supposed to be able to walk, run, play without fear or judgment.
I don’t worry about having “the talk” with my kids, because my “talk” is so different. It’s a heartbreaking talk, the kind that leaves them with so many questions of why they can’t do things the way some of their friends do. Why they are looked at differently for something they have no control over. For literally just being born and being themselves! Shamed and taught to hate the skin that I find so beautiful. Made to feel like they are less than, simply because they are brown.
Oh, we were good enough to pick cotton, tend the fields, cook dinner, and mind the children. To be stolen from our lands. But we are not good enough for equal rights, pay, treatment or opportunities. We are not allowed to go for a jog, sleep in our own bed, walk home, look around a store, go for a drive – breathe.
Racism has been an issue ever since the first slave boat docked on the American shore and my ancestors were put up for sale like common livestock. Stripped of their dignity. Separated from their families. Raped. Beaten. Forced to do labor for a “master”. It has continued for centuries since. Our history is so ugly. It’s riddled with injustice. It’s so hurtful, but it is also shoved under the rug. No one likes to talk about it or acknowledge it. It’s “uncomfortable”, and we are supposed to accept that.
My children are taught American history, but not their own.
Then incidents like these happen, over and over and over.
And we hurt.
We get angry.
We protest peacefully.
We don’t understand why.
We hug our children. Our spouses. Our friends.
And we go to work and smile as though we aren’t exhausted by the weight of it all.
It’s. So. Fucking. Heavy.
And there is never any justice for us. There are only excuses. Or blame:
“he shouldn’t have been jogging in that neighborhood”
“he shouldn’t have run”
“It was mistaken identity”
“they matched the description of a suspect”
But we go home and get up the next day and do it again. Living our lives next to the Amy Cooper’s and Dylan Roofs.
Scared but resolute.
Deserving yet denied.
Tired but determined.
Look at those faces again…what do you see?