I have never been afraid of the police. In my lifetime I’ve never witnessed the police be unreasonable or cruel to anyone in my circle or someone I knew personally. I admit for a long time because of those three facts, I pondered the “If only they had…” , “Why didn’t he…” , “They were only doing their jobs…” for brief moments when the issue of police brutality was brought up. My cognitive dissonance was off the Richter Scale because I know police officers. I have them in my family and I could not fully grasp the conflicting narrative of “protect and serve” versus ” killing without cause”.
Interesting enough, I weeped strong tears when the Rodney King verdict was handed down. In my teenage heart and mind I could not fathom how those police officers could essentially beat a man like a forgotten dog. ( Even though, an actually dog probably would have garnered better treatment.) I was a budding militant the next day; planning a silent protest an walk-out while walking to school that morning. My efforts were thwarted by loose lips and the school administration. Nonetheless, I was all about action.
However as I look back now, I realize…I thought it only happened on the OTHER side of the country, to those people, and in only those neighborhoods. The anger had never hit home. I had never been sucker punched in my gut with the realization. The sadness never made me feel as if I could not breathe.
As I have had to talk with my daughter over the past two years explaining how fragile our black existence has become and watch her innocence, about that reality slowly become less pronounced on her face, it has been eye-opening and heart breaking at the same time. She is a teenager and her best friends are a real life representation of the rainbow coalition in diversity. In all of her childhood wonder my daughter has never had to confront race head- on. And then there was Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis. I have told her the story of my militant high school days and she has witnessed her mom school many on stereotypes, advocacy, service, neighborhood, culture and pride. But, Trayvon was 17 years old when he was murdered, very close to her age and he became the boys she goes to school with. The boys she laughed and ate lunch with in the café. Trayvon became tangible.
I prepared her for the Zimmerman verdict. I informed her, it was a very real possibility, he could walk out of that courtroom a free man. Yet, nothing I could vocalize could sate the silence in our house when the words, ” not guilty” were said. Absolutely nothing I could say could dissipate the sadness in the air. So, we actively participated in rallies, matches, stand-ins and protest for change, not only because we were angry. But, also because my daughter needed to feel and witness that Trayvon’s life mattered.
Yet now, my own beliefs have wavered; do we matter? Back then we had Johnathan, Malissa, Timothy, Tanika, Rekia, and Alesia. Now we have Walter, Eric, Mike, Ezell, Freddie….and Sandra, who could have easily been me driving down the road in broad daylight committing a minor traffic violation of ” improper lane change with no signal” and end up alone and dead in a jail cell…or it could have been my daughter.