When I look at Ahmaud Arbury, I can't help but see my son Dylan's big brown eyes, bright smile, cheekbones and rich brown skin. I was devastated to learn that Ahmaud was gunned down and I've been trying to contain my emotions all week.
According to a police report, the father of Ahmaud's killer, Greg McMichael, told police that he and his son grabbed their guns and chased Arbery in their truck, believing he was responsible for burglaries in their neighborhood. We don't know what their thought process was, but we do know another black woman lost her son, and as a black mama, it shakes me to my core.
I didn't want my boys to see me upset because certainly a 2-year-old and 11-month-old are too young to understand. Last week I was trying to be productive and get work done but under the surface was pain. This terribly deep hurt and exhaustible pain.
And last Friday, which was supposed to be Ahmaud's 26th birthday, I lost it. I broke down and wept uncontrollably in my kitchen halfway through an attempt to cook dinner.
I know many of my white family and friends love my family and our adorable precious sons. They are truly gifts from God but I need you to understand that there's a burden for mothers of little black boys that is unique. We face a reality that requires us to raise our sons to be extremely polite, hard-working, excellent in academic endeavors because anything less than the exceptional profile (read: Barack Obama or Oprah Winfrey) may mean missed opportunities or worse, responses that wrongfully punish them because of the biases that exist.
Black people are constantly working uphill against the pre-existing stereotypes and systemic racism in our country. Black people have to work to prove that we're good, that our lives are valuable and that we deserve justice. It's as if we're guilty until proven innocent. And THAT alone is exhausting. And, sadly, even when we do "everything right" by raising fine, upstanding citizens they can still get gunned down by racists—it's enough to break you. The idea of it haunts me at night.
We're a good family. My college-educated, black husband is hard-working and very involved in serving our community. He is an incredible role model for our sons and undoubtedly, my boys will be model citizens. But what happens when they grow up and they're no longer cute little babies? What about when they're teenagers in a neighborhood or community that's new to them? What happens when they go for a jog by themselves? Or they simply wear a hoodie sweatshirt? What if the person who pulls them over doesn't know they're professionals and men of faith who serve their community? At the end of the day, their character, excellent grades, good behavior will not matter because what people see FIRST is that they're black males.
If we don't ALL speak up against these inhumanities NOW, other people of color will continue to be at risk every day.
If we don't ALL require justice NOW, more black people will die.
IF we don't ALL demand change from lawmakers and administrations NOW future generations will be impacted.
Please please please let's make sure our babies don't become another Ahmaud.
Here's what you can do to help dismantle racism:
I've had several (white) friends reach out to me and ask what they can do to minimize racism in their communities. I'm grateful that their concern stretches beyond rhetoric and they're ready to take action. Here are some suggestions that my husband and I put together that would be helpful steps for our white allies.
1. Speak up. When incidents occur, be vocal about your compassion, concern and rage. Express your opinions on social media platforms and directly to your friends and colleagues of color. This helps emotionally to know we're not alone in our outrage. More importantly, your voice helps to amplify the concerns of injustice beyond the black community. Social injustice isn't a black problem, it's a humanity problem.
2. Contact people in power. Make it known that all citizens care about racial injustice.
- Call your local state representative and senator. Ask them "are there laws in place that protect minorities in incidents of racial profiling?" "Are there laws that properly penalize those who commit hate crimes?" Ask them "what is their office doing to protect minorities from hate crimes?"
- Attend local and state political debates. Ask your elected officials: "What are your plans on elevating racially biased incidents with law enforcement or citizens arrest to hate crimes? Will you support laws that will automatically initiate a DOJ federal investigation if bias is suspected?"
- Call local police departments, civil rights advocacy groups and your district attorney. Find out what their engagement policies are. Ask if there are any provisions or training in place to reduce implicit bias? Are they/will they do community events to educate and connect with the communities they swear to protect, including low-income or minority communities.