The verdict is in, but it doesn't change my reality

There's still so much work to be done.

mom and baby kissing
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This week has been hard. I was listening to the news all day Monday and Tuesday, waiting on the verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial.

I was hoping that finally, finally, a jury would say, "This is murder."

I wouldn't have been surprised at all though, if Chauvin wasn't found guilty. Because we've seen it happen too many times.

As a mom, I've watched too many tapes of Black people being killed, even when they are following the rules. And what are the consequences? Nothing.

I was pregnant with my son when Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson, Missouri. At my shower, on my "wishes for the baby" card, I wrote "I hope you won't be afraid… of the police."

That is my reality. They say that being a Black mom makes you pray in a different way, and it's true. So even though Derek Chauvin was found guilty, racism and the dehumanization of Black people are still all too present. I'm still a mom raising Black children, and I'll still worry about them.


'We're still dying'

While allies were tweeting about justice this week and saying "I can breathe," and quoting MLK, all I could feel was hollow and numb. I was relieved, yes, but there is still so much work to be done.

My friend Jenee Osterheldt summed up what I've been feeling since the verdict came out Tuesday: "George Floyd was not the first. And he will not be the last. We're still dying."

Yes, this time, after something so horrific was caught on tape for more than nine minutes, we are finally seeing some accountability. But that's not justice. And this is not the end of anything for me, for any moms with Black children, especially sons.

When the Adam Toledo news came out, I wept. A 13-year-old boy. A baby, not that much older than my 6-year-old when you think about it. I couldn't watch yet another video, read another story. Years and years this has been happening to our babies and nothing has changed.

Black lives are beautiful

I grew up in Flint, Michigan, a majority Black city, and even though there was racism, I had no idea that Black people were only 14 percent of the population. I watched The Cosby Show and Family Matters on TV and saw Black people everywhere I went. I had two Black college-educated parents. And even though my dad was always hollering about how everything was prejudiced (and now I realize he was right), I had no idea as a kid that a whole lot of people really didn't see us as human. And they still don't.

That's what it is: dehumanizing. During this trial, after the movement of last year, we've heard about Adam Toledo and Daunte Wright and Ma'Khia Bryant. And, and, and. Because Black people are feared, because, I think, people don't see us as human.

When we are. We are such beautiful people. My daughter is so strong and determined. She's my role model. My son is the sweetest little boy you could ever meet—we have to tell him it's not mean to tag someone out in baseball and he can hit someone back if they hit him first.

And one day, even my kiddos, specifically my son, will be seen as a threat by some people. Because they are Black.

Chauvin was found guilty. But I'll still have to sit my kids down and have "the talk" with them. If you ever get stopped by police, do everything they say. Back during the Trayvon Martin case, one of my journalist friends wrote about being a Black mom of boys. She said she told her sons that even if their civil rights were being violated in a traffic stop, they needed to comply and do everything it took to come home alive.

That's my reality. That's the same talk I'll have to have with my son and daughter. That most parents of Black and brown kids have to have. Because it's still happening. We are still dying.

I'll even have to talk to my children about where to go, what to wear, and how to act, because I know Black children and teens aren't held to the same standard as white children and teens.

How to talk to kids about the verdict

I've seen this question floating around the internet, and I don't even have to think about this one. I haven't talked to my kids about the Chauvin trial, and I won't. My daughter is only three, and blissfully clueless about current events. My son, well, he's already a little too woke for a 6-year-old. I'm in a mixed marriage, so we talk freely about race at home all the time. We talk about history and Jim Crow and how Black Santa Claus is the real Santa, and white people just don't know it.

But I am not about to tell him now that he'll be seen as a threat one day. We'll talk about it enough when he gets older, and that's just depressing.


What I will do right now is tell my children they are beautiful, and special and amazing. And I'll read I Am Every Good Thing, a children's book that's an ode to Black boys. I'll kiss them and let him snuggle into our bed at night when they get scared. Because they are little kids. And reality is coming. We've already seen unconscious bias, and for now, for as long as possible, I just want them to be kids. Because that's what they are.
Pamela de la Fuente is a writer and editor in the Kansas City area.

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