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The Hate U Give

I laughed and wept, both alternately and simultaneously, as I read Angie Thomas’s

The
Hate
U
Give.

For a couple years now, I’ve witnessed as names become hashtags. I’ve seen people killed twice over:

first,
when breath was stolen
from their bodies;
next,
when their lives were stolen,
too, swept away by words like
“no angel” or “drug dealer” or “thug,”
as if an entire life
is worth no more
than its worst
(alleged)
offense.

I’ve understood how a person, once painted an “offender,” is seldom understood as worth one more thought. I’ve struggled to explain how

each life taken
is a loss insufferable,
outrageous, egregious;
a. loss. of. a. whole. life.

(that could have been anything)

When I read the fictional-but-not-really-fictional, staggering, powerful The Hate U Give, my whole body sighed. I saw that this is how people understand the life behind the death; the years of needless hate behind a moment’s sanctioned bullets.

While this exact Khalil never lived in this flesh-and-blood world, he lived in a heart that bled onto pages. Those pages are now being read by thousands upon thousands of people. And this Khalil, though he lives in heart and page, represents many who lived
in
this
world:

Oscar.
Trayvon.
Rekia.
Michael.
Eric.
Tamir.
John.
Ezell.
Sandra.
Freddie.
Alton.
Philando.
Emmett.

Once upon a time, each of these people lived and laughed and cried and yearned. Their ability to do these things ever again was stolen from them, but you and I? By remembering them, we can change the world.

By remembering them, we can

end
this
list.

thug

Many thanks to Alison Doherty for the recommendation

 

 

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On building racial stamina

Power protecting power

daddy littler j

I am a white woman.

My gentle, articulate, Yale-alum husband is black. His blackness didn’t matter to me when we started dating, or when I discovered I was pregnant. I couldn’t really believe it mattered to anyone.

I’d seen otherwise long before July 19, 2013, when I tried to make people laugh while recognizing the limitations of misunderstanding their own experiences and insights as universal.

A police officer repeatedly shot and killed Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri on August 9, 2014. I didn’t pay Mike’s death much mind until two months later, when I saw how many people were still protesting and “suspected it likelier I was uninformed than that they were delusional.”

One month later, I was no longer uninformed. I’d spent countless hours poring over news and watching devastating social media clips reflecting very different fact-sets than those set forth by policemen and their mainstream media spokespeople.

I discussed Ferguson with my then five-year-old son that day. “But they won’t shoot me?” Li’l D asked of policemen, punching me straight through the heart with his words.  Read more…

Died with his hands in the air

daddy littler jMy husband is a Black man.

We had our #IfIDieInPoliceCustody discussion before Sandra Bland’s death in custody inspired the hashtag.

Officer Darren Wilson killed 18-year-old Michael Brown on August 9, 2014, one year ago today. I wouldn’t have believed the #IfIDieInPoliceCustody talk necessary then. So an unarmed kid was killed by a police officer in a Southern town thousands of miles away? What does that have to do with me?

In late October, I saw how many people were still protesting. I suspected it likelier I was uninformed than that they were delusional.

My suspicion inspired my education. I spent November and December learning what Ferguson had to do with me. I first wrote about Ferguson in “Ferguson: the color of justice” on November 17, 2014, more than three months after Michael Brown died.

Two weeks later, I wrote about Eric Garner, John Crawford III, Ezell Ford, Dante Parker, Tamir Rice and Darrien Hunt, a small sampling of Black men–and in Tamir’s case, child–killed by police officers as brutally as needlessly. I broke their murder stories into tweet-sized bursts in hopes of distilling something complex into digestible pieces, which I hoped would plant seeds of question in readers’ hearts.

I wrote in early December: “I will not deny, nor take part in perpetuating violence by my denial.” I stopped writing about Ferguson afterward, but I kept reading and watching relentlessly until late December, when I realized I was no longer educating myself. I knew. I was merely crushing hope each time I read about another unarmed person of color turned hashtag courtesy the police. I decided it was time to step away from constant coverage and protect the hope that fuels me to work for change.

I have seen many new name-hashtags since. I’ve learned about the victims behind them and mourned. I’ve come to take for granted truths that existed long before I recognized them or found them plausible.

Though I didn’t realize it for three more months, my education began with Ferguson one year ago today.

Of all the videos I’ve watched in the year since, one outwardly innocuous video stands out in my memory.

Were Michael Brown’s hands up, or weren’t they? (Did his actions pose imminent threat when he died, or did they not?) Based on reading articles alone, it seemed impossible to determine the answer. I ultimately bypassed news articles in frustration and instead watched every single firsthand account following Mike’s killing.

One stood out among them for me. One made my stomach sink as I thought, the world is so much harder than I realized.

It’s the one that comes to mind nine months later as my moment of revelation.

In this video, two White contractors stand side by side in the moments after Mike Brown’s death, facing something the viewer can’t see. They’re not performing; they’re utterly unaware they’re being filmed. “He had his fuckin’ hands in the air!” one of them shouts, incredulous, raising his arms to demonstrate. (The contractors affirmed this later.)

He had his fuckin’ hands in the air!

In the year since Mike Brown died, those words have stuck with me. They have been the ones that can’t be spun, or turned into something else, or undone. And they’re words I’d never have found, if I hadn’t been between jobs and foregoing sleep in search of the truth.

A year later, I find the mystery isn’t in whether or not Mike Brown posed a threat when Darren Wilson fired his killing shots; after all, Mike “had his fuckin’ hands in the air!

The mystery is in how little has changed with so many people dying needlessly since.

And so, if my husband ever dies in police custody, I want you to know:

Like Mike Brown, he will have died with his hands in the air.

Being color brave

Sandra Bland was taken into custody after failing to signal a lane change.

She died in custody a few days later. Though she’d tried to post bail just two hours before and would soon be starting her dream job, she was reported as having committed suicide.

I would have taken this story at face value a few months ago, but something happened to change that.

I was between jobs a couple months after events in Ferguson, Missouri inspired a series of protests across the nation. While my children slept, I browsed Twitter, Instagram and Vine for firsthand accounts of both protests and police brutality. I became increasingly agitated by the stark differences between firsthand–yet somehow “unofficial”?–accounts and the secondhand news media accounts treated as official. To hear the secondhand accounts represented as truth infuriated me. I also felt guilty, because I’d never before thought to question reporting I’d more or less taken for neutral presentation of fact; the problem was doubtfully a new one.

As I stood on the precipice of understanding that America’s race problem isn’t just one of redneck outliers, I watched horrifying videos. If others in this country were forced to face brutal realities just for stepping out of their homes, I could fully recognize that brutality and the braveness of stepping out regardless. Read more…

What have you experienced?

“I have black friends!” I’ve heard cried countless times. It’s made me want to ask:

But have you talked to those friends about race? Have you talked to them about racism, and the times they’ve been singled out–by silence, by microaggression, by rudeness only identifiable as racism if you’d experienced the totality of it? 

Or have you assumed your friends have never experienced racism … because they would’ve offered up their experiences to you conversationally if they had?

White people are remarkably efficient at self-segregation. We have the luxury of choosing this, and then still pretending we have nevertheless heard and understood the experiences of those outwardly unlike us.

I don’t pretend to have answers or be “post-racial.” I am married to and have two sons with a Black man, and yet I still show moderate preference for Caucasian folks.

As I think about the future well being of my sons in this country, in this world, I think they will be safest in a future where White people don’t pretend to know but ask:

What have you experienced?

Categories: Friends, Parenting Tags: , , ,

I’d much rather love you

“One of my friends said I’m a girl if I like pink,” my five-year-old sighed from his car seat.

I burst out laughing. I didn’t mean to make light of my son’s gloominess, but the statement was so preposterous–in so many ways–I couldn’t repress my mirth. 

I’ve heard statements like this many times before, but somehow taken them In A Very Serious Adult manner. I’ve sternly explained to my son all the ways I know of that’s wrong.

But this particular evening a few weeks ago, I laughed. I kept laughing between apologies, until I could catch my breath and try explaining my laughter. Read more…

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