I, too join the world in mourning the tragic death of George Floyd, and many, many other black lives so quickly taken at the hands of police.
For the last few weeks, I have driven to work with tears in my eyes while listening to talk radio hearing sad and frightening accounts of other African American citizens recounting traffic stops and other encounters with law enforcement that could have or did become unnecessarily violent.
I have had “the talk” with my children about how to conduct themselves if stopped by the police, about how anything they purchase from a store must be put into a bag and to have their receipt handy, even if it requires the cashier to go through one more step.
And I think about the many times I have driven home from work or some activity with friends, mapping out safe places to stop if I am followed and blue lighted by law enforcement. I plot in my mind if I should stop immediately, or if I should call 911 to tell them to alert the officer of where I will pull over. Should I stop on the highway, or should I pull into the driveway of someone’s home? Which would be safest?
I think about my mother, who at the time was in her 50s driving home from her second shift job, and was harassed by law enforcement. I think about how violated she felt and how helpless I felt, because there was nothing we could do about it. As someone told her, “it is just one of those things.”
While scrolling through social media, I look at the collages of all of the beautiful smiles in the pictures of the many black people killed at the hands of law enforcement, and I have gut-wrenching pain when I try to imagine how their families feel and how they must suffer from unimaginable pain that I am sure will never go away.
I scroll down to read comments that range from “Black Lives Matter and Rest in Peace” to cruel and heartless comments that I have to block from my memory, because they cut like a knife just to read.
I struggled tremendously when making the decision about whether or not I would write about this period in America’s dark and hurtful history. My first thought was to tell myself “You don’t write about politics, but remind myself that these injustices are more that politics.”
I tried to convince myself that I needed to say something else about COVID-19, and my last thought was “how dare you not use what platform you do have to express the sorrow, pain and inequality faced every day by black people in the United States?” Some might look at these injustices as political, but it is plain morality, human decency, and equality.
My family, friends, acquaintances and I have spent our lives working extra hard, and putting in countless extra effort and hours to show and prove our worth, lost many hours of sleep worrying about equal treatment when we showed up black in court, in the emergency room or at the interview?
Would the case be tried fairly? Would the doctor believe my pain was real? Would they continue to look for the cause of pain? Or would they roll me to the side and come back later? Would I be given a chance to prove that I could do the job?
Does politics play a role? Absolutely. Policy and legislation won’t change hearts and moral judgment, but policy and legislation will bring consequences for unfair, unequal, unethical and unjust treatment.
I have read and heard numerous firsthand accounts from activists, protesters and citizens actively engaged in or affected by the Civil Rights Movement. One difference noted in the make up of the Black Lives Matter Movement is diversity.
An article from greatergood.berkeley.edu, entitled How Diversity Makes Us Smarter states that simply being exposed to diversity can change the way you think. The article also quotes Dr. Katherine W. Phillips who states, “We need diversity if we are to change, grow, and innovate.”
It is my duty as a human being as a child of God, to say Black Lives Matter. As a black woman, wife, daughter and mother, Black Lives Matter.
T. A. Jones is a contributor to The Warren Record and author of A Summer with No Ice Cream. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.