It was a regular Saturday, I suppose. Hubby was getting ready to cut the grass. Baby girl was eating her waffles and enjoying an episode of “Super WHY.” And I was, as always, on my laptop. Then this happened:
Crash! Scraaatch! Bang! Crash!
I called for my Hubby and got to the front door just in time to see the young man who’d just taken out at least three cars on our normally quiet block, jump out of the car and start running nervously back and forth.
Just like us, our neighbors came out of their homes in various stages of dress. Sweatpants. Slippers. T-Shirts. We were all confused. How does someone crash into three parked cars at a three-way stop in a residential neighborhood? The answer became increasingly obvious as we watched the driver of the car dart back and forth, up and down the sidewalk. Eyes bloodshot. Face flushed. One hand flailing wildly as the other smacked a pack of cigarettes against his side.
Dude was high.
Higher than high.
We just knew that when the cops arrived, this kid was going to be in big trouble. We were even more sure of it when the cops asked him for his license and registration and, after going through the motions of patting his pockets, he said he didn’t have it. In fact, my hubby and the two other neighbors who posted up at our house (we have a corner property) said “Awww mann!” in unison when they heard the guy explain why he didn’t have his paperwork.
We just knew he was going to jail or would, at least, get to enjoy the plush leather seats in the back of the patrol car.
And maybe he would have—had his skin been of a darker hue.
He certainly wouldn’t have been allowed to loud talk the cops the way he did. Or walk all the way down the street and back with his mom and girlfriend (obviously passing to them whatever it was he was “holding”). He wouldn’t have been allowed to search the car ALONGSIDE the cop or remove a bag from the trunk and walk back down the street with it AGAIN.
The three brown brothers standing in our yard, hubby included, watched this unfold in disbelief and, though I’m sure they wouldn’t admit it, hurt. I was simultaneously stunned and angry. We all knew how this scenario would have played out if it had been one of them. If one of them had slammed into three parked cars and loud talked cops while obviously high or intoxicated, they would have found themselves eating concrete. Or worse. There certainly would have been no opportunity to get anything out of the car or walk more than a foot away from the scene. At all.
“Mooooommmmmy, I’m finished!”
Her voice was the only thing that could have broken my train of thought as I wrestled with what we were seeing. It was a reminder of the conversations and lessons her father and I will soon have to have with her. How do I explain to my child that we live in a world where people, even those in authority, will base how they treat her solely on the color of her skin? How do I teach her that she is beautiful and strong and worthy of respect when so much around her tells her otherwise? How do I teach her to treat people justly even when I know that she will one day find herself observing the kind of obvious disparity we did that day? Our faith teaches us to love our enemies and I’m good with that, but what does that look like when your enemies could be the very ones who are supposed to protect and serve you?
I don’t know the answers to these questions. All I do know is… I’m exhausted. Like so many of us who, by virtue of what we do, have to keep up with the conversations and discussions happening—current events and such—I’m tired of reading, writing, and talking about race. I’m tired of opening my Facebook page or Feedly and reading another rant or another fantastically written think piece about race, gender, and the politics of them both. And hear me: I’m not tired because I think these things shouldn’t be written. They absolutely should. We have to keep talking and writing what’s on our hearts and minds. We are the scribes of our generations. I guess I’m tired because all of this should really be a non-issue at this point. In 2014. Twenty or thirty years ago, when the topic of conversation was Rodney King or Apartheid, I remember naively thinking that “by the time I had a child,” there would be some new thing we’d be talking about and fighting for.
That time is here. How wrong was I?
It’s like my mama used to say, “There is nothing new under the sun.”
This I know for sure: America has not healed from the wretched pains of the past. Our communities are broken because of that. White folks, Black folks, Brown folks—all of us. Hate and injustice has been allowed to fester generation after generation. The seeds have taken root and the chickens are home and roosting. Yes, there has been significant progress. Without a doubt, there has been growth. But what I saw on my block that day as I watched how Dude was treated and felt deeply the hurt and frustration of my Black brothers who were witnesses to it all, definitely tells me that there hasn’t been enough.
So what happened to Dude? Well, he wasn’t arrested. Later that day, after the cars were towed and all the neighbors had gone back into their homes, I sat on my porch and watched as he laughed and joked with his friends while walking down the same street where he’d caused so much havoc only a few hours earlier.
I just let the tears fill my eyes.
Fix it, Jesus. For real.
* * *
This post is the latest in Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts’ “Faith & Motherhood” series.
Tracey Michae'l is a writer and educator based out of the Philadelphia area. She is a wife to William and a mother to a beautiful two-year old little girl. You can find her on the web at www.traceymlewis.com.
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This is so sad; I’m lost for words and mourn the life we could have if only the world was fairer
Thanks for reading, Yetunde! I, too, mourn that life.
As the mother of a 21 year old black man, I am beyond mortified!. And sadly, I know all too well how differently this would have played out had it been my 6’4″ brown baby. Smh. I can only imagine how your husband and the other men felt watching that.
You know…they would never admit it, but I know they were hurt. I know that they were feeling “some kind of way” as they say here in Philly. It’s a shame, for sure. Thanks for reading!
Sad is all I can say. It becomes seriously difficult not to hate nowadays.