Thursday, January 15, 2009

What does a mother of Black boys do in the face of police brutality?

Everyone is talking about the latest killing of a Black man by law enforcement officers.

As a little girl, my mother told me if I ever got lost to find another mother (someone with kids) and tell her that I was lost. She never told me to find a cop. I will never tell my children to find a cop. My experience has been that cops don't lend much protection when it's needed. They often wield their power, beating red lights just because they can. Now, I know that they are necessary to maintain peace and order in a society where there is so much imbalance. And if a serious crime were committed against me or my family, I'd probably seek the help of the police. If they'd help or not, I'm not sure.

Anyway, as a mother of Black boys, the killing of Oscar Grant reminds me that I have a lot to teach them about navigating this world where they are never viewed in a positive light; where as men they will often be thought of as oversexed and criminally inclined. Now, I won't jump on any bandwagons to lament the killing of Oscar Grant (mainly because I'm tired of jumping on these bandwagons--it doesn't make any real difference as they just keep on a-killing). We all know that the killing was wrong and that justice should be served. We know that life is not valued--especially the lives of young Black men-- and we should never stop fighting to make sure the value of life is recognized and appreciated. I personally can't think of anything more devastating than losing a child and my heart goes out to those that loved Mr. Grant. But for me, spending too much time focusing on Mr. Grant's killer, the system and on the whole story is not healthy. It makes me feel anxious and sometimes powerless. I have to stay off that bandwagon.

See, I can't change how the world takes on my boys but I can certainly influence how my boys take on the world. Therein lies my power as mother. I think to myself that the hubby is in his mid-30s and has never so much as been stopped by cops except for a busted taillight. Somehow he has managed to stay out of the way of racist cops and I'm glad my sons have him as an example. When I think of what I will tell them, these things come to mind:
  1. Don't act the fool in public. Be disciplined with your emotions. Do not act out in anger or frustration. Do not fight or be otherwise involved in altercations in public. It doesn't matter if people are trying to punk you. You can't be punked if you are not a punk. Any aggressive act can and often will be misconstrued. Including kicking your own car when you realize you have a flat tire. We are not in control of anything outside of ourselves. So you'd better be in damned good control
  2. Be respectful. Say good morning, please and thank you. Go out of your way to show you are not a threat. Do not go too far though. More than anything, you must be true to yourself.
  3. Know where you are/who you are with. If you notice you are the "other," be extra vigilant. The "other" is usually an easy target/scapegoat.
  4. Walk with the knowledge of your history. In America, there is a plan in action to eliminate Black men. Know that.
They will sometimes feel like their freedom is being encroached upon. But ain't nobody really free, my beloveds. Even the oppressor is not free because he is a slave to his oppression.

I know that there's no guarantee that my sons will not be targeted. They could do everything "right" and still. But I can make sure I equip them as best as I can. Teach them: you can be authentically you while still being cognizant of where you are and how those around you see you. Teach them: true freedom can really only be found in the mind.

Meanwhile, stay alive. And as physically free as you can be, considering.

1 comment:

blackgirlinmaine said...

Excellent points and pretty much all the things I have taught my son. In the last year he has 2 cop encounters and thankfully both ended with nothing happening. That said, I suspect the outcomes may have been different if he was not raised to know how to deal with the po-po.

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