A life where we constantly have to blend in with society in hopes of not becoming a target
Ignoring the fact that you’re already a target.
The moment you took your first breath someone was being taught they were superior than you, someone was taught to fear you, and yes someone was taught that your life was so worthless that they can take it and get away with it.
This is a reality that you my dear boy will have to come to terms with at an early age.
Like Langston Hughes Mother to Son,
You my son must learn what I learned many years ago.
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair and life for you just won’t be fair,
But as the blood of our ancestors flow through your veins,
Always remember, when you walk out of a room their perception of you will never be the same.
With the purest aura and the strength of a thousand men,
Those tacky stairs in the form of privileged individuals will see what I have seen since the moment of your birth.
***Trigger Warning: Please be advised, this post may be difficult for those that have experienced child-loss, difficult delivery, or lost a loved one during child birth***
While much of the world watches how things are going to play out with the Ahmaud Arbery case, another topic weighs heavily on my mind. Our black women are still out here suffering and many do not know that something that brings us great joy can also end us due to the fact that our concerns are not being listened to. I’m speaking on childbirth. Did you know that black women are three to four times as likely to die during childbirth than any other race? This issue has been going on for years and many seem to overlook it.
Many will ask why I single out black women as an importance. My answer is simple, I am a black woman and the numbers show the need for a greater concern. That does not diminish the deaths of any other race, but I can’t speak on any other race. I will support anyone who does, but once again I do not have experience as a different race. I know what it is like being a black woman, giving birth, almost dying due to not being listened to, and I now have a voice to speak on it at the time.
I remember in my second pregnancy; I was told I had partial placenta previa. For those of you who do not know, this is when the placenta either partially or completely covers the cervix. I found this out when I started to experience pains early on that didn’t feel like growing pains. It took many trips to the doctor informing them that something was wrong before they finally listened to my concerns and discovered that was the cause. Moving on in my pregnancy, the pain seemed to get worse with each day, but I started dreading going to the doctor because with each visit my concern fell on deaf ears. Finally, two weeks before I delivered, I made three trips to the doctor still with nothing being done.
At 26 weeks, I gave up and just started to try to move as less as possible. That’s pretty hard when you have a toddler and a husband in the military, but I tried. I remember going to sleep one night and waking up in excruciating pain. I quietly went to the bathroom so that I wouldn’t disturb my husband who had to be up early. Attempting to use the bathroom I realized that I needed help. As I called for my husband the most severe pain shot through me, and blood filled the toilet. Immediately I thought my baby was gone. With the aid of my family I was able to get back to the bed to wait on the ambulance. By the time they got there, that too was soaked in blood.
At the hospital it was revealed that I had a placenta abruption which led to me going into preterm labor. My child survived but had to be sent an hour away to a NICU. I on the other hand suffered severe blood loss. All this time and I can’t help but to wonder if something could’ve been done earlier if I had just been listened too when I expressed something was wrong. How many countless others have experienced the same experience that didn’t survive to tell the tale? Serena Williams and Beyonce were one of the lucky ones that had the status and finances to make doctors listen to them and give them extra care, but what about the ones that do not. Judge Hatchett’s daughter in law, Kira Johnson passed away after childbirth. Despite expressing concern numerous times and being ignored, she succumbed to internal bleeding that probably could’ve been stopped if someone had just taken the time to listen.
Now there are many things that effect black mothers and put them at risk. Poor healthcare, lack of insurance, lack of knowledge is among those things. But what about the issue that is simply beyond our control? What about the many that are victims of someone else’s negligence or failure to take them seriously? Who will be their voice? How do we fix this issue?
As I watch the news recently about Sean Reed and hearing the detective joke about his funeral being a closed casket my heart hurts. While this young man was laying lifeless in the street without being covered up, that was something to laugh about? I still cannot figure out what he did that was so wrong that caused him to lose his life. Many will say, he shouldn’t have ran or he posed a threat. Eye witnesses say that he only had his phone and his shirt while running away. That seems accurate since he was filming on Facebook live the whole time.
Now I know many people at this point are saying they are tired of hearing about this kind of stuff, there is no such thing as racism, talking about it makes it worse, and there is no difference people just need to work harder for what they want. In the eyes of myself and many people of color that is bull. This is something we live with everyday whether we want to or not. There is no option. We must talk about it or else no one would know about it. Just look at Ahmaud Arbery. It took two months for the world to know what happened to him to get the ball rolling. How many others do we not know about?
As for him not running away, well the truth of the matter is he could’ve had the same outcome if he had stood there and complied. It’s been seen time and time again. Philando Castile informed the officer that he legally had a weapon before attempting to get his license like the officer wanted before being shot. What I find even more shocking about the Sean Reed incident is that the same day is that two men of the opposite color did the same thing minus being on Facebook live and these two men were armed plus wearing body armor. Those two men were also arrested without injury. They live to see another day. So my question in this case is, “What made them less of a threat?”
During a time where my boys (Age 11 and 7) are supposed to be living young, wild, and free; they must start their life lessons. Those lessons go something like this:
These are the laws you must study today. Always know your rights.
When you get pulled over stay calm, turn your music down, have your license and registration attached to the visor overhead so it is always readily available, and no matter what keep your hands on the steering wheel. Do whatever you have to do to drive away safely.
When you walk in the store take your hood off. It does not matter that the person next to you of the opposite color has his on. You are seen as a threat and he is not. Also keep your hands out of your pockets until you leave out the store.
When talking to an officer or anyone else make sure your hands are visible at all times to prevent the escalation of the fear within a person that could cause harm to you.
Choose your battles wisely
Most importantly, should you find yourself in a situation where it is your life or someone else’s, DEFEND yourself at all times.
These are the life lessons that many children males and females of color have to go through at a young age. It does not matter that my children have been raised in the suburbs their whole lives and that their parents are veterans. Once they leave our neighborhood and even inside, they are still just a color to many that are filled with ignorant information about people like them. Many ask, “What do we do?” I wonder if there is anything we can do. There are still so many blind to everything that’s happening, many do not want to speak out because of fear of backlash, and then there are the main ones that are part of the problem. So for those that read this and want to chime in, feel free to tell me, “What do we do?”
“I am not one of your little friends!” I yell out loud before turning to see who said that. Did those words really come out of my mouth? When did I turn into my mother?
Rushing to the mirror I take a look at myself. Those were the same words she used to tell me and now I’m saying it to my child. My pre-teen son who has decided to tap dance on my tolerance level because he’s suddenly the “man” in school and it’s gone to his head.
The pre-teen son who I have helped spoil rotten and is now paying for it. Going back into the room I take him in. Standing there looking like his father. Smooth dark chocolate skin, dimples in both cheeks, a smile that will melt any girls heart, and those eyes that’ll look the devil in his eyes and call him out on what he feels is wrong.
This is my child who has now forced me to turn into my mother all because he feels it’s unfair to lose his electronics for a week. Never mind that he’s acted up in school, never mind that he didn’t empty the trash like his father told him to, never mind that he didn’t change the bands on his braces today that I’m pay tons of money for, and never mind that the dog that he asked for needs to be walked but he spent so much time on his phone he neglected to do it again.
All that does not matter because in his eyes the world is so unfair and I’m the cause of it. So now I have to turn into my mother. I walk up to him, hands on hips, stern frown on my face, and proceed to give him the same speech I received once upon a time and it sounded like this……
I AM NOT ONE OF YOUR LITTLE FRIENDS. IF YOU THINK I AM YOU ARE SURELY MISTAKEN. NOW WHEN YOU ARE GIVEN A TASK, I EXPECT YOU TO DO IT. SINCE YOU COULDN’T DO IT CONSIDER YOURSELF ON PUNISHMENT. IF THE ATTITUDE CONTINUES THEN YOU CAN ADD MORE TIME ON TO YOUR PUNISHMENT. THINK ITS A GAME, TRY ME AND SEE.
The look on his face shows that he got the message loud and clear. Off to his room he goes probably thinking of me as the bad guy. As his door closes I finally let out a sigh of relief. He doesn’t know that that was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. In my eyes he’ll always be my little chocolate firstborn baby, but babying him I can do no longer. So now I must resort to reminding him that I am his mother and not one of his little friends.