A few days ago, I posted this Zora Neale Hurston quote on the Facebook fan page as a precursor to my Black History Month post. It is one of my favorite Hurston quotes. In fact, I used it in my personal statements for PhD programs. I talked in length about my uncle who never allowed me to color outside of the lines in preschool and kindergarten, and how even then he was helping me sharpen my oyster knife. I was open and honest about growing up below the poverty line in the inner-city with a drug addicted father and a mother struggling to keep us altogether as a family. I focused on how despite all these things I refused to be a statistic. I allowed school and books to become my escape into a world full of new possibilities. All the things I wanted to say here…
But then yesterday evening after taking a long nap, I woke up to a Facebook and Twitter timeline discussing the verdict in the Michael Dunn case. For those of you who don’t know, Michael Dunn was on trial for the attempted murder of three teenage Black boys and the murder of a fourth. After having a verbal altercation with the teens over how loud their “thug” music was in a gas station, he proceeded to return to his car in retrieval of his gun and shot TEN bullets into their car. Dunn then went back to his hotel room ordered takeout and watched a movie. When picked up by police the next day, he said he “felt threatened.” Yesterday a jury returned a verdict of guilty on three counts of attempted murder, one count of shooting into a car, and a mistrial on the first degree murder charge. While some people felt that something is better than nothing, it’s not enough for me. It felt like a slap in the face and the jury was simply saying “well make sure you don’t leave witnesses next time.” Reading my Facebook and Twitter timeline immediately took me back here. The post I wrote in July after George Zimmerman was acquitted of murder for the death of Trayvon Martin.
And then I decided that I would of course have to blog about it because…
…I am the sister of two teenage brown boys.
…I am the aunt of three brown boys.
…I am the niece of brown men
…I am the cousin of brown men.
… I am the friend of brown men.
…I am the daughter of a brown man.
…I am the wife of a brown man.
…I am the mother of a brown boy.
And I am so very tired of always putting my best face forward when I’m the minority in order to make the majority feel comfortable. I am tired of being told that racism does not exist and that white privilege is not real. I am tired of having to recite that Hurston quote in my head when I am in a position where systematic racism is used on a daily basis, and I feel helpless to change it. I am tired of having to be “twice as good to get half of what my white counterparts get.”
I am angry that yet another Black boy is dead and a jury did not give his parents justice the day before what would have been his 19th birthday. I am tired of laying awake at night worrying about the day when my sweet brown boy is made to feel that his heritage is a curse. I am tired of feeling helpless because there is no way I can protect all the brown boys and men I love by simply reminding them to sharpen their oyster knives.
I am tired of the silence of mothers of other races on this subject because they are too afraid to delve into race. I am tired of the only lives being valued having little to no melanin. These are BOYS dying… BOYS being killed because their very existence makes GROWN WHITE MEN fearful. What if these were white teenage boys? What if it was your fiance gunned down the night before your wedding? What if it was your boyfriend/father of your child shot while handcuffed and laying face down? Would it matter then? Would there be national days of silence or calls for changes to gun reform across the blogsphere for those people? Or are guns only bad when used on innocent white children?
Your silence makes me not trust you. Your silence makes me feel like you do not care about the future of my brown boy. Your silence breaks my heart.
So, no this is not the Black History Month post I had planned. This is the Black History Month post I’m forced to write because in 2014 it is still seemingly a crime to be Black and not do what a White person tells you too.