An open letter written in 2016 during my first trimester of pregnancy on the killing of innocent black men by police.
It’s 4am and I’m up. I’m 5 months pregnant and insomnia has become common these days. I fill my late nights with grilled cheese sandwiches, laundry, obsessing over what diapers to buy, comparing natural baby products, and reading articles posted on various social media and news outlets.
“I cried for Korryn Gaines, Freddie Gray, Eric Garner and countless more. I am so damn tired of being brought to tears.”
For two or three days now I have been skipping over articles about the murder of Terence Crutcher and avoided watching the full video of his murder. I was already a big crybaby before I became pregnant, but my current condition makes me tear up at the drop of a dime. I can barely handle watching a kitten get hurt let alone an innocent man. I knew if I started to read and watch, I would become overwhelmed with sadness and rage, and I am desperately trying to protect my fetus from this harsh reality as long as I can. Beyond that I am sick of crying. I cried for weeks during Michael Brown. I cried for Tamar Rice and #SandraBland. I cried for #AltonSterling and #PhilandoCastile. I cried for Korryn Gaines, Freddie Gray, Eric Garner and countless more. I am so damn tired of being brought to tears.
But, tonight, as I sit here scrolling at 4am, I could no longer ignore it. You see I am a black woman, who mothers a black child, who is the big sister of two teenage black men, who loves a black man, and I do not have the privilege to ignore these types of things. As I watched the video of Mr. Crutcher’s murder, as expected, I was brought to tears. My process with these incidents has always been similar. First, I grieve because someone one just lost a loved one. Second, I become uncontrollably enraged and filled with disdain. Third, I become fired up and ready to fight American injustice however I can. Lastly, after fighting the ways I know how, I become drained and move back to sadness. I need to heal myself.
These emotions stem mainly from fear. The fear of losing one of my brothers, who are only 14 and 18 and mean the world to me. The fear of having the man I love, the father of my child, snatched away from me before my very eyes. Fear for my own safety and fear of the continued possibility of my world being shattered at a moment’s notice. But now, more than ever, I fear for the child I carry inside of me.
Next week I find out the sex of my baby. I pray it’s not a boy. Not because I wouldn’t love to one day have a son. Or because I always envisioned my first child would be a girl (which I have since I was three). I pray it’s not a boy because I am worried. If I birth a son he will be black, his skin will be brown and his hair a nappy crown.
I don’t know what I would do bringing a black boy into this world, into America; the country I was taught to pledge allegiance to. I ask myself questions like, “How will I protect him? How will I teach him to be free? Is protecting him even possible in this country? Will his skin color and physical stature be the death of him? Should I shelter him, keep him under lock and key? Would he grow to be a strong and independent man if I do? Will my fear emasculate him?". These are the questions that I ask myself late at night as I feel my beautiful baby toss and turn inside me. These are questions that I am sure my mother asked or still does. These are the worries that I know have kept her up at night the last 19 years.
I find that I spend a lot of time praying for black boys and men I see walking down the street because of my deep faith in God, my want to provide some level of protection, and my need to be consoled in my fears. I find myself constantly praying for black men I don't know. Many of them are around the ages of my brothers. I pray for their safety, almost instinctively when I see them. As a black woman, all the protection I can offer is in prayer.
I pray that they make it home safely and that they don't become the next social media hashtag. I pray that they get a chance to continue to grow, experience, and learn. I pray that their mothers, wives, sisters, girlfriends, or whoever loves them doesn't get a call letting them know their world has been ripped apart by the hands of a fearful white man or woman sworn to protect them. I pray their children get to see them and run into their arms again. Mostly I pray they get a chance to live another day as black men in America, a country so hell bent on erasing their existence.
My concerns, unlike those of my white counterparts who carry children whose skin will not be held against them, are not simply about quality childcare and car seat safety. No, my concerns stem from a deep seeded fear that lives inside me, one that has been planted throughout centuries of vile history. Mainly I ask myself if I have a black son how will I keep him safe in this country and teach him to protect himself from the fear others have of his power while still allowing him to bask in his brown skin glory? I still have not come to an answer I am satisfied with.
I am not sure what I will do. I will do what black mothers before me have done. I will try my best to warn him, to protect him but not impede on his independence, and above all else pray for him to arrive home safely each day. What bothers me most is that I have no solid answers to these questions that play in my mind between 4 and 5 am. I am getting to a point where I see no real end to come in my or my child's lifetime to this madness we face. At this point, we have marched, rioted, petitioned and cried out. Yet, hundreds of slaughtered black men later I still sit here with tears in my eyes. Yet every black man murdered by police is the same story in a different town, and we get the same run down. I'm not sure who said it first, but I AM SICK AND TIRED OF BEING SICK TIRED. If I do carry a son I want him to be able to LIVE free of the fear that has been implanted in me. As the great Nina Simone said, "I'll tell you what freedom is to me: No fear!” That is the freedom I want for my children in this country.
A Black Mother To Be