Home > Love, politics, Safety > His body

His body

Oh, friends.

I need to tell you about a nightmare I have, often.

I’ve told you about the facts of Black men killed by American state actors, hundreds of men-turned-hashtags daily and the numbers to which their lives are boiled down, but I need to tell you about this nightmare. This hurt.

I need you to know that I don’t care how you cast your votes. I don’t, though I obviously did until a few weeks ago. This isn’t about votes, though the post was inspired by yet another White Hillary voter telling me I must be so glad Trump is coming to office.

He spoke those words because he has no idea the weight I’ve carried the last few years. He has no idea that this Terrible Thing Just About to Happen in his eyes is already a moment from happening day after day after day after day in mine.

He has no idea that when I cast my vote for Bernie Sanders in the general election, it was because I already knew that Hillary Clinton was no savior for Black men.

“You didn’t find the right words,” people like this man have told me dismissively. “It can’t really be that bad, or I’d have noticed it.”

No, you really wouldn’t have, I’ve tried to say dozens of different ways. Your life is hard and scary and sad enough as is, even without looking beyond your own day to day.

You didn’t notice, and that’s understandable.

I did, because I had to.

I did, because every day I kiss my husband goodbye as I leave for work, I’m acutely aware of how I might never see him again.

So, please, follow my nightmare … and, please, for the love of God, do anything you can to see it doesn’t come true for anyone else, no matter who ascends to the White House next month.

I am sitting and playing with my two young boys in my living room when my cell phone rings.

“Ma’am, ma’am,” I hear, together with a jumble of addresses and words informing me that my Black husband has been shot.

“What, what?” I ask. “You’re kidding, right?” News so big can’t come in a ridiculous phone call while I’m surrounded by little boys’ giggles, can it? “Why would you joke like that?”

“This is no joke, ma’am.” One of Anthony’s front lights was out, the caller mumbles. He became combative when the officer asked him about it.

“No, no,” I say. “No. He’s–was?, God, no–the gentlest person you could ever know. No way he’d have fought. No way he’d have risked it, knowing the risk to his little boys. Why are you doing this to me? Why this terrible joke?”

“You’d better get here fast,” the caller says. He gives me cross streets. I barely hear the rest as I buckle my boys into my car with vision so blurry I shouldn’t be driving.

I think about the call as I race those two miles, the two miles to the last place my husband ever breathed.

The place where he died because he didn’t use a (subjectively) kind enough tone while accepting a traffic ticket.

(There was nothing he could say that would make him not a threat.)

Are there “good” officers? It doesn’t fucking matter to me in these nightmares, when I come running up to the yellow and black tape and see my husband’s body chock full of holes, blood oozing over the upholstery of the black Hyundai in which we shared thousands of miles of driving …

I see

drops of warm
crimson
dripping
out
onto
cold
concrete

and I scream, and scream, and scream as I run toward him. His body.

As officers shout at me, as some try to intervene, I push through the tape and I run to my husband’s body. I scream and scream and scream, rocking as I hold bloody, lifeless was-him in my arms, as people try to extract him from me and I try to make sense of that

he
will
never
hold
me
again.

When I awaken from these horrible nightmares from which too many hard-working, loving Americans do not have the privilege of awakening, I nestle close to him. I breathe in his salty scent and savor his warmth. I thank goodness that, for now, for me, the nightmare is over.

Many, many Americans have lost their husbands, their partners, their sons, their fathers, with no recourse, nor hope for it, as long as White Americans think, “that was an anomaly, though. Every time it happens, every day, it’s just an anomaly.”

It’s not an anomaly. When one group of people routinely gets away with killing another group of people, with virtually no questions asked, it’s not an anomaly. It’s a pattern. It’s systemic.

For my husband to be safe, for Black men–and women–everywhere across America to be safe, you have to believe they’re not safe today … no matter how gentle they actually are, no matter how loving, or kind.

You have to be willing to believe that no politician, no matter how genteel or matronly seeming, holds the keys to ending this bloodshed … and to understand some won’t want to work toward its end, no matter what eloquent words they blast from podiums while elections are underway.

Only you can change this. Only you can make this nightmare stop playing out for people of color everywhere across America.

But for that to happen, you have to listen. You have to understand that the person screaming out not to be killed won’t have the magic words to make you hear if you don’t want to hear.

You have to choose to be willing to hear. You have to face that these one thousand consequence-free shootings a year aren’t anomaly, but pattern.

You have to face the terrible truth of that. I can’t make you. Facts can’t make you. Facebook memes can’t make you.

Only you can do that. Only you can stop and listen for you, and hear–in whatever words those screaming can find–the sorrow of those who know their lives will remain dispensable as long as White you and I don’t demand that the system change.

daddy littler j

This is the picture I will plaster everywhere. You will not find a mugshot.

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  1. December 19, 2016 at 7:26 pm

    I do hope your nightmare never becomes a reality. And I cry for and with all those people (too many people) for whom it has.

    • December 19, 2016 at 7:28 pm

      Thank you.

      One beautiful thing in this world, for me, is knowing you–specifically–are out there. You feel this loss and you care, whether or not it’s my husband or someone else’s you’ve never encountered at all.

      I’m grateful for that. ♥

  2. December 19, 2016 at 7:31 pm

    So real, so scary. I know this is a reality for too many right now–let’s work to make tomorrow better for all the kind people in the world. Thanks for sharing and helping us all at least start the conversation.

    • December 19, 2016 at 7:33 pm

      Yes, please, to the conversing and the working, the not-demanding-the-perfect-words-to-get-started.

      Thank you for being open to working for this change. ♥

  3. December 19, 2016 at 7:38 pm

    So sad, incredibly scary and real. Thank you once again for always sharing and keeping our eyes, hearts and minds open ❤

  4. December 19, 2016 at 8:53 pm

    Nightmares are something I know about, yet I know of no way to reach out and comfort you, because it does happen to someone… Too many someones… I wonder if, in some way, it happened to you as a kid.,, It happened to me more than once. My father was a pathologist, the first person the coroner calls. 8 times I was the one who took the message that included the name of a close friend of mine. I still panic if anyone is late coming to my house — I’m sure they are dead…

    Please, I hope you never, ever get that phone call. Don’t let goodness pass from the world, I wish I knew how you keep your fear from crippling you! How so you write through so much fear?

    • December 19, 2016 at 9:03 pm

      It’s hard to describe, but it’s gone beyond fear recently. Recently, I’ve moved to something like acceptance–most the time, that this moment is good and kind, and that’s something to celebrate. Of course, to get to that, I had to spend a lot of time doubled over by each new name-turned-hashtag I encountered.

      Right now, Anthony’s messing with his new phone and I can hear my little boys snoring from their bedrooms. I’m having conversations with people I cherish. This moment is good, and I’m glad for that, no matter what tomorrow holds.

      Come what may, I want to know I’m doing my part to ensure there’s more happy holding in the future, even in a town that’s one of the more trigger-happy in the nation. These words I what I can do, most the time, and it helps me to take the guttural cries rolling around in my belly and try shaping them into words someone might understand.

      (Usually, I stick closer to arguable fact than my feelings; it’s been that way since I had to testify against the pedophile. Once in a while, though, I say “fuck it!” and just type what comes as it comes, no matter how the jury perceives it.)

  5. December 20, 2016 at 5:22 am

    I can honestly say that with this post, you found the right words. I see what is going on, I feel what is going on, and I now understand it more clearly. What hurts though is the fact this has been going on for a long time all over the country. It wasn’t until the last few years that we finally see it in real-time because of our technologically connected world. At times like this, I go back to your bubble post and read it again to remind myself that being comfortable when others aren’t is wrong. To do the right thing, I need to be willing to blow up my comfort bubble and do the right thing. I know I’m doing the right thing by it feeling uncomfortable, awkward, like I’m doing it as a child for the first time. *THAT* is how we learn and it’s sad that so many people have forgotten how to learn. You’re an amazing writer and so open about yourself, everyone should read what you have to say because you put pictures in people’s heads using words. It’s a gift.

  6. December 20, 2016 at 6:11 am

    That’s the sweetest picture of Anthony. 🙂 I wish I could find the right words to comfort your fears. Our country seems to be devolving, but hearts can change. I was fortunate to have a mother who taught me love and acceptance of all through her words and actions. I’ve done the same with my children, and grandson. You and your family are in my thoughts–much love and hugs!

  7. December 20, 2016 at 9:00 am

    Scares the hell out of me too Deb. I pray that never happens.

  8. December 20, 2016 at 9:58 am

    every time i hear about another person killed for having the “wrong” color of skin
    my heart breaks that much more
    how can it this reality be real?
    why isn’t the very air around us on fire
    with how wrong this all is?
    maybe that’s what keeps people’s heads in the sand
    the insanity of it
    but we need to get our heads out of the sand
    and stand
    together.

    i am standing with you & your family.

  9. December 25, 2016 at 4:21 pm

    A constant nightmare of mine that you so eloquently depicted. Even scarier now with the impending doom.

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