All matters become trivial and trite when another Black person is murdered by the police. I can no longer speak in the light, social dialect that illustrates my friendly, function-in-these-suburbs “fake-a-nese.” I don’t care about the latest dumb thing Trump said; the latest celebrity couple to get divorced; the school’s fundraiser, or your dog who needs surgery. I don’t even understand what you are saying and I’m too preoccupied and too tired to translate. My brain can only hear things spoken in my native tongue: Black.
My people, and even more devastatingly, our children, are being targeted, abused, and murdered by the very people who are supposed to protect them. And there are never any consequences. The justice system has, through inaction, sanctioned the killing of Black people (If Roy Oliver is convicted, he will be the first officer convicted of murder in the state of Texas in 47 years). And there is no way (not education, age, neighborhoods, parenting, income, following the rules, being compliant) that guarantees safety. We are fighting not to achieve the American Dream; but simply to live in America (literally “live”). And I’m fucked up about it.
How did Roy Oliver see a car full of kids, who hadn’t harmed him or broken any law that he knew of (except for suspected underage drinking) and begin shooting, multiple times, not caring who or how many he hit? How could he – knowing that it was a car full of kids – not hesitate, before he pulled the gun out of a buttoned holster, widened his stance, raised up his arms, steadied his gaze and fired again and again and again? How? Are we, Black people, so feared that even a slightly built boy, a 15-year-old who has yet to go through puberty, who didn’t even have a hint of facial hair and mere sprinklings of acne, isn’t carrying a weapon, and is dressed in a Polo golf shirt, is viewed as an imminent danger. We are.
So, how do I now function in this country? How do I talk about normal, everyday things, become consumed in a great show, or attend a ritzy fundraiser for abused animals, or go to the grocery store and have idle chit-chat with the White check-out clerk when I am constantly worried: Lord, how will that momma get through? Will these police suffer any repercussions? How do I protect my boys (knowing that I can’t)?
And it’s that “I can’t” that leaves me helpless, wordless.
Who knows how long she was in labor: a severe thunderstorm ripping through and threatening to break her body and her spirit into pieces until she gave a final push, released a final grunt to be delivered an antidote that immediately dried up the skies: her baby boy. I figure they had selected the name Jordan long before; and may even have had blankets and nursery items with his name fancily embroidered on them.
We know she had sleepless nights: first from the frequent feedings and then 14 years later from the nights of concern when you allow your teens to be teens, though they are still your babies. I bet, that night, the night of Jordan’s murder, Mrs. Edwards never fell asleep soundly—a mother’s body doesn’t seem to be able to fully rest until she hears the closing click of the door that signals your baby is home safely.
And he, Jordan, her baby, never arrived home. (nor did his brother, as the police held and questioned him overnight after he watched his brother die). She never heard that click that would have allowed her to rest.
And she never will rest easy again. Nor can we. Mrs. Edwards said that she doesn’t want for Jordan to be a martyr. A martyr is defined as a person who is put to death or endures great suffering on behalf of any belief, principle, or cause. Jordan suffered, but not because he was standing up for a cause, just for being a Black kid.
How can I talk about anything else when our little Black boys can’t safely just be little Black boys.
Originally published May 6th, 2017