When Police and Black Men are at War, the Two Men I Love Are on the Battlefield
It’s been almost a year since the tragic events in Ferguson and I’m still sore from the pain. I can feel myself go back in time to the night I watched the news from Ferguson unfold from my living room.
My insides feel like they are boiling. I feel conflicted, hurt, betrayed and disappointed. I feel torn on the issue, because the two men I care most about in this world are in the line of fire and could be taken from me unjustly. One is my black son (who is biracial, but black as far as society is concerned). The other is my cop husband.
My television screen flashes through scenes of the riots and protests across the country, and I feel as though I’m watching through three different sets of lenses. The first pair are as a journalist. I listen to the speculation and chaos and sigh. The civil responsibility we have to first seek the truth, then report seems to have fallen by the wayside.
The famous words of Malcolm X ring truth in my mind: “The media’s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they control the minds of the masses.”
We can do better. We have to do better.
The picture changes and as I watch the pain-struck eyes of Michael Brown’s mother who seeks justice for her dead son, my eyes gaze through the lens of a black mother with a black son, and I mourn with her.
My son is only 2, but I know all too well once the adorable pudgy cute phase wears off, and he grows into a young man, some will see him as a threat. This isn’t fair, and doesn’t seem logical. We are a middle-class family in a nice neighborhood. Some might think we gain some sort of pass from racial discrimination, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
The fact of the matter is teenaged black males are 21 times more likely to be shot by police than their white counterparts. Let that sink in for a minute. 21 times more likely.
I don’t need to know much more than that statistic to know that I need to be vigilant with my son. No toy guns, ever. Teach him to address adults with respect. And if he has a problem with authority, he follows orders then brings his complaints to me so I can get to the bottom and handle it.
I will teach him to trust police, because he can’t afford not to. Fear, and the urge to fight or flight could ultimately cost his life.
I’m sure there will be times where he’ll get angry with me for not allowing him to do things his white friends do, but the fact of the matter is, he can’t get away with the same things. It’s a privilege I took from him by giving him my black genes. And until our country begins to value the lives of all of our children equally, this is how it has to be.
The scene shifts on my television screen again, and I watch the police car burning in the middle of a riot zone through the lens of a police officer’s wife.
Every day I send my husband to work and pray he will come home to me that night. I pray that the violence and hatred towards cops involved in tragic, even unjust events, won’t carry over into retaliation against the officer I love.
More than 80 officers have died in the line of duty so far this year, and many of them have been shot to death. These are the stories my journalism colleagues fail to cover, but I have to be aware of.
Of course my husband, who is white, is lucky to have a diverse family: A black wife and two black children of his own at home, but the people he interacts with don’t know that. Some threaten our children — who they assume are white — with incomprehensible violence. Sometimes it feels as though the badge that’s suppose to protect us all is actually working against us on the streets and back at home.
My husband always has the option of changing careers. My son can never change who he is. But my son and other black boys need allies in uniform to protect him. Allies like his father.
The backdrop changes again on my television and finally, I decide can’t take any more of the news. I turn off the TV and check on my little man who is sound asleep and safe at home in his crib. I climb into bed and pray that the other man in my life will also return home safe to the family he protects and keeps hidden far from his badge.