By RAINA J. JOHNSON
My son is almost six years old and way, way too many times throughout the course of his life, I have found myself being forced to ask “What do I tell my black son?”
The headlines are undeniable: Another shooting of an unarmed black ____ (you fill in the blank: teen, girl, man, child). Black kids can’t swim at a pool, listen to music, walk home, sleep in their beds, or play at a park. Their parents can’t cheer at a graduation, sell a single cigarette, ask for help after a car accident, or attend bible study without fear of losing their lives.
It’s no wonder the #WhereCanWeBlack was trending on social media. There have been too many instances of black people dying in America because they are Black and seen as inferior, yet as a threat to society.
Throughout the country, the overt racist and state-sanctioned violence against people of color is exhausting, and down-right frustrating.
And here we are, coming off of a national celebration of Independence, weeks after a shooter took the lives of nine black parishioners inside of a church in South Carolina, and still, in 2015 predominately African American churches are burning throughout the South, and legislators can’t agree or move fast enough to take down a flag that represents hate – not Pride.
The Fourth of July is meant to celebrate the birth of the United States as an independent nation and the Declaration of Independence. But if you look at our not so recent history, we aren’t really free, we aren’t all created equal and we all definitely do not have the right to pursue happiness.
We still are selling t-shirts to represent and champion the very false idea of freedom in a nation that was built by slaves. So my question is: what exactly are we celebrating?
Tears fill my eyes at night when I’m up late reading story after story after story of attacks on people of color. I have no words left, and I am tired of being on the defense. I’m tired of praying, forgiving, marching, rallying, and teaching my son to put his hands up when I read that we are being shot, arrested and killed, and the places we should be able to just be, are literally being burnt down to the ground.
Usually, the Fourth of July is spent with family and friends, barbecuing, and watching fireworks. This year, I didn’t participate in any of those festivities. Instead, I used the weekend to reflect and lead others to act.
I know there are no easy answers to my questions, “What do I tell my Black son?” and “What are we celebrating?” because we aren’t dealing with an easy issue on our hands.
I know for sure emerging from a weekend-long marathon reflection session that I still do not have an answer, but I hope that I’m a little more fearless like Bree Newsome, who scaled a 30-foot flag pole last week to take down the Confederate flag, at the South Carolina statehouse. Or Langston Hughes, who wrote in The Chicago Defender in 1948, “If government can set aside some spot for a elk to be a elk without being bothered, or a fish to be a fish without getting hooked, or a buffalo to be a buffalo without being shot down, there ought to be some place in this American country where a Negro can be negro without being Jim Crowed. There ought to be a law.”
He was right, there ought to be a law and that law ought to be followed.
Raina J. Johnson works as a freelance writer in Milwaukee and handles everything life gives her with the assistance of her Superhero son. Follow their amazing adventures on her blog, I SAID YES! at metroparentmagazine.com.