What I Learned about Black Lives Mattering and Justice in 2015
This isn’t the post I planned to write today. It’s certainly not the post I want to write today. I planned to write a post that showcased this year for my family, but I can’t stop thinking about the families of Tamir Rice and Sandra Bland. I can’t stop thinking about the fact that 2015 seems to have just been a year full of Black lives not mattering and justice not happening.
Like many of you, I spent the holidays with my family. I watched Sesame decorate a gingerbread house; joyfully open his presents; spend hours playing in his new tent; perform science experiments with Mr.S.; and play race cars. I stayed up late watching movies with my husband catching up on all the quality time we’ve missed the last few months. I FaceTimed with my siblings, nieces, and nephews, while reminiscing about the good ol’ days. All the things you’re supposed to do when you grow up and start a family of your own.
But you know who will never have the chance to do these things with their loved ones again? The families of the Charleston Nine, Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland, and Tamir Rice. Lives cut short in 2015 due to bigotry and racism. While it still remains to be seen if the families of the Charleston Nine and Freddie Gray will see justice, this holiday season it was announced that there will be no indictments for Sandra Bland and Tamir Rice. Not only will no one be held accountable, no one will even be prosecuted in the cases.
On December 21, 2015 when the rest of us were decorating our trees and finishing up last minute shopping, Geneva Reed-Veal, Bland’s mother, was being told she might never know how her daughter truly died. Shante Needham and Sharon Cooper, Bland’s sisters, were being told that no one would be held accountable for the loss of their sister.
On December 22, 2015, the same sister who inspired my first post on Sandra Bland, said “She’s special to me because she reminds me of you and I don’t know what I would do if someone did this to you.” My response “You would fight for justice. You would never let my memory die. You would do what her family is doing.” I fought back tears as I typed those words and the urge to say “burn everything to the ground.” The very fact that my YOUNGER sister lives in fear of what might happen to her outspoken activist OLDER sister is sometimes too much for me to bear.
On December 28, 2015, when the rest of us were watching our little ones play with their new treasures, Samaria Rice, Tamir’s mother, was being informed that while her son’s shooting was a “perfect storm of human error” the humans who committed these errors would not be charged. Apparently, shooting a child before you even put your car in park is justified. You can also fail to administer first aid and never be held accountable.
On December 29, 2015, I cuddled Sesame extra tight when he climbed in the bed with us that morning. I marveled at how much he’s grown up since last Christmas and then found myself wondering how long before someone thinks he’s a threat. If the Tamir Rice case is any indication, I have a little over 8 years before I have to make him wear shirts that say “Don’t Shoot I’m a Kid.” I’ve already had a white man comment on the “paws” on him while at the park when he was only two years. In the moment, I simply said “his dad is tall,” but what I was really thinking was how can my barely 10th percentile baby boy possibly be seen as older than kids he’s the same height as right now?
During a time of year when family is heralded as one of the reasons for the season, these families are told that their loved ones lives aren’t worth justice. I’ve spent the holiday season avoiding the news, just so I can simply enjoy my son’s innocence for a little longer. I’m not sure how many more of these innocent moments I’ll have with him. However, I realize that I have the privilege to ignore the news for a little while. My son is still here. Geneva and Samira can’t look away. They will never hold their children again. They will never get the answers they rightfully deserve.
I ended 2014 optimistic that change would happen and Black lives would matter. I’m ending 2015 with the realization that Black lives still do not matter and justice isn’t coming.
In 2016, I’m re-activating my call to White moms. Please make sure you’re nurturing your children with positive images of minorities. Please speak up when you hear someone make ignorant comments about minorities, especially around your little one. Be my ally, so your child will one day be an ally for my son.
If you want help doing these things, sign up for Raising an Advocate 101. We’ll focus on checking our own privilege while acknowledging our prejudice and removing our pride.