Yesterday another black man was shot down in cold blood. His name was Alton Sterling. I’ve seen pictures of him smiling while holding his children on his lap, oblivious to the fact that he wouldn’t be there when they grow up.
I’ve read some horrible things written by some very insensitive people. I’ve heard rumors that he was a convicted felon, a sex offender, and that he was resisting arrest. I watched the video on CNN of his son literally breaking down into tears and I sat at the table and cried for his loss. I still have not been able to watch the full video of his murder because I feel like I won’t be able to get the images out of my head.
All day I’ve been playing back a conversation in my head that I had with my (then) 5 year old son. I told him, “Sweetheart, if you’re ever stopped by the police and they tell you to get on the ground, you do it.” Him: “Okay Mommy.” I told him, “Baby, don’t ask any questions, don’t reach for anything, and don’t make any sudden moves. Just lie down baby. Okay. Please. Just lie down. Promise me.” By that time my voice was breaking and I was in tears. I tried to calm down so I wouldn’t scare him. He looked at me with confusion in his eyes and he said, “Okay Mommy. I promise.” That’s a moment in my life I feel I’ll never forget.
Can you imagine my anguish and my fear? To feel the need to have that conversation with my kindergarten son? Do you know the terror I feel knowing that I’m raising a young black male who could be a victim of police violence at any age? Because there are people out there who think that black lives have no value. People who think that all black folk are dangerous thugs who don’t deserve a chance to live.
I rarely allow my son to play with toy guns, if ever, and I never allow him to point one at anyone, because I’m scared for his life. I want to keep him in a bubble, beside me, at all times. But I can’t. And that’s the scariest part. No matter what side of town he lives on, how well he’s been raised, or how well spoken and respectful he is: he is a black male. He is a target.
I didn’t know Alton Sterling. It could very well be true that he was a sex offender and a convicted felon. But he wasn’t resisting. He put his hands up. Why did he have to die that way? Why did he have to be shot down in the street. Didn’t his children deserve to have a father? Didn’t he deserve to live?
Doesn’t my son deserve to live? Don’t my husband and my two daugthers deserve to live? Don’t I? Why must I be forced to take away their innocence and security because their black? Don’t they deserve to feel safe? Do I have to live in fear of the day one of them gets pulled over or is questioned by a police officer at the corner store?
It’s horrible. To have to listen as people try to justify and refuse to acknowledge that these people were gunned down in cold blood. To have to listen to people as they cite black on black violence and the rioting of desperate people who feel powerless, as a justification for killing us. I guess we’re supposed to sit by idly and be quite. As long it’s not happening to us, I guess we’re not supposed to care. And you. Do you have black friends. Do you have children. How can you not see it?
So the next time you feel the need to point out how #AllLivesMatter, I urge you to look up #AltonSterling #TamirRice #EricGarner #TrayvonMartin #FreddieGray #WalterScott #EricHarris #Sandra Bland and #AiyanaStanleyJones. They all had a right to live. Because all lives matter.
Except, ours. Ours seem to matter a little less.
The Black Wife of a Black Man and Three Black Children Who Deserve to Live