I’m mentally and emotionally exhausted today. This topic had been swirling around in my psyche for a few weeks but I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to write about or even how. Then, as I watched the verdict being handed down in the Breonna Taylor case yesterday and it was made very obvious that justice would not prevail, it became crystal clear to me what I wanted to say and express.
I have never been pregnant or have kids so I cannot imagine what it is like to carry a life inside of me; to feel my baby kick and move, to birth them and raise them. I have no idea what it is like to watch my child grow into their own little person, with thoughts and curiosities and their own unique personality. I don’t now what it’s like to sacrifice to put them through school and give them things I never had and see them succeed. And I hopefully will never know what it’s like to get a phone call that tells me someone had taken my child’s life and there would be no recourse or justice for it. As I sit here writing this 24 hours after the decision has been proclaimed to the world that only one officer would be charged in her murder and he would be charged for firing shots into the apartment walls and NOT for firing shots into her body while sleeping, I literally cannot fathom what Tamika Palmer, Breonna’s mother is going through. I can’t wrap my mind around any of this as a Black woman, much less as her parent, family members or close friends. I think about my family and how close knit we are, for the most part. My family is massive and sprawls across Canada, the United States, the UK and the West Indies so sometimes it’s hard to stay connected with everyone, although we all do our best. But I cannot imagine if any of my female cousins, sisters, aunts, etc.(or male relatives for that matter) had been gunned down by the police in their home while sleeping in bed that we would be even remotely close to okay right now.
The rage and anger that Black people are constantly asked to endure over and over while injustices are repeatedly executed against us are inhumane. The ways that we are asked, time and again to swallow our pride and not be angry as white people look at us with straight faces and tell us they will not seek justice on our behalf or hold their peers accountable when they take our lives is beyond maddening. Black people everywhere are watching what always happens play out: white people cry white tears of horror at the injustices done by their own towards the Black community, they throw some money or air time at it for show and then they move on with their regularly scheduled program. This has been the pattern for not just decades, but millennia. I literally mean that. For hundreds of years, white people have been allowing white supremacy to rule. And this time, I’m going to use the generalization of white people as a whole which I normally do my best to stay away from because I truly despise summing a group of people up by the actions of a few. But when the actions are as egregious as what Black and people of colour in general are viewing and experiencing, the time for niceties and platitudes is over. When the healthy Caucasian people are not calling out the unhealthy Caucasian people for murdering and brutalizing Black bodies, we have a serious problem.
For the record, I’m not here to debate with anyone about crime that happens in every community due to proximity to poverty or a lack of resources. If your first response is anger or defensiveness or to point out that Black people commit crimes too or any of the racist troupes that are being batted around like volleyballs at a Caucasian BBQ, miss me with that bullshit. Go educate yourself on Black people, on crime, on poverty and on the inhumane and racists histories of both Canada and the United States, etc. There is no longer a seat at the table for anyone, Black, White, Asian, South Asian, Middle Eastern or Indigenous who exhibits racism towards my community any longer. I have watched as white people have tried to diligently explain why they don’t stand up and fight. I’ve seen white people give all kinds of excuses as to why this isn’t their fight or why they don’t agree, all while continuing to use and profit off of Black ingenuity and inventions. How many white and non-Black people of colour dancers, singers, actors, artists etc. who have been making money off of the Black community as a whole and making money off of Black art in all its forms are silent now? Where are they marching, protesting, organizing, and fighting for Black men, women and children? How many white and LatinX trans, queer and LGBTQIA+ folk who appear on Drag Race with Ru Paul and sing praises when Nicki Minaj was on…where are you marching for Black women? Where are you fighting for Black women, especially Black trans and queer women, men and children? Where are all the government agencies with their billions of dollars that they can find to pay middle class and rich white people during a pandemic but could never find those funds before to address the homelessness and poverty problem in North America that affects mostly Black, Brown and poor people?
I’m over it. I’m over the lies, I’m over the white tears, I’m over the “that’s messed up and shouldn’t happen” comments. I’m over it all. I’m over white and non-Black people of colour instigating conversations with me about race especially when all they want is to project their polite or undercover racism towards me. I’m sick to my stomach of microaggressions. All of these emotions are sometimes too much to process, which is why I continuously implore Black people to seek counselling and therapy especially now during these times. But I’ve also understood just how very important it is for me to find joy in my current state, no matter how chaotic and painful it may be. I’ve started understanding that Black joy is a unique form of protest. I’m being triggered by instances of where I was upset and angry because of an injustice that was being meted out and remembering watching smug white men laugh in my face as I lost control of my emotions. I cannot tell you how many times in my life this has happened, until I realized the play. Racist white people enjoy seeing Black people get angry, enraged and lose control. I’ve had situations from primary school, high school and in my adult professional life where I’ve been involved in someone doing something racist or prejudiced towards me, I’ve gotten upset and then I was penalized for not controlling my emotions. Black people are trained by the white world we predominantly live in to accept injustice and not get angry. We are told if someone does something heinous and you react, then you are the problem. A lot of this comes from the corporate world, and white men thinking that the ways they cut and talk down to each other in the workplace is the same as talking down to a Black person so we should just do what they do and learn to manage our emotions. I can’t begin to tell you how infuriating this is to endure on a daily basis. As a Black woman in the corporate world, I would see examples of this all the time; the racist, sexist, homophobic jokes white men get to say and everyone else has to “manage their emotions.”
Sometimes the weight of all this feels like it’s too much to bear. It feels like a race in molasses. Most days, I find writing my articles and focusing on my life coaching career to be very therapeutic. Being of service to others especially during tense times like these are very helpful for me personally. So is talking to my parents. I’m finding these days that I’m redefining my relationship with them. I think part of it is because of our mutual ages (my parents are both now in their early 60's and I’m in my mid 30's). As I reflect on both my life and theirs, I’ve gained so much more wisdom and understanding about this thing called life. We don’t share the same religious or political views because I’ve walked a very different life than they have, but I’m starting to now appreciate a lot of the lessons they went through and knowledge they’ve learned. With the passing of my Grandfather this year, a man I was very close to and the passing of my Grandmother back in summer 2008, I’ve now lost the only two grandparents I was ever close to. I watch the effect of not having their parents around has had on my mom, aunt and uncles. I really get that no matter what your differences are, nothing replaces your mom and dad. Nothing. Even when I was studying my psychotherapy program, we learned about the need for a mother and father in your life and what the absence of that can cause, even if you’ve had amazing caretakers and guardians. Nothing replaces your parents. And nothing replaces your children. I recently had a very dear friend of mine and her husband lose their baby due to a miscarriage in the same week I lost my grandfather. One of the things she and I talked a lot about during that time was that grief is grief. A lot of people were telling her and her husband not to worry; that they would have another baby. One of her primary frustrations about that sentiment was that while she understood the intention, as a mother she was never going to just get over it and move on. No matter how many children her husband and her are blessed with in their life, nothing will replace the daughter they lost. Because of how far along in her pregnancy she was, she and her husband had to go through the process of burying their daughter. My family and I went through this when we lost my brother a few hours after he was born. I remember his baby casket. I remember the devastating grief I felt even at that young age, because I was old enough to understand what had happened. No parent is ever really prepared or ready to bury their child no matter the circumstances.
So while I can never understand what Tamika Palmer is going through personally, my family and I, my friends and I have experienced real deep grief and suffering. Losing a child under any circumstance is a weight that many parents have faced. As I look at my parents, I realize how incredibly blessed I am to still have them. How incredibly blessed they are to still have me and my siblings. How lucky we are everyday that we get to spend time with each other or talk to each other. If nothing else that 2020 has reaffirmed to me (not that I didn’t know this before) is that life is so precious and in the grand scheme of things, it’s very short. My grandfather passed away shortly before his 82nd birthday. I had him for 35 years of my life and he spent 82 trips around the sun and I still feel robbed. I feel like I didn’t have enough time with him. I know this sentiment is echoed throughout my family, especially by his brothers and sisters who had him the longest. So I cannot imagine losing my child as a baby or as a beautiful young 26 year old with her whole life ahead of her. I am so blessed to have 35 years of life with my parents. Through the good and the bad, I’m grateful for every year with them. I don’t take the days that I have left for granted or assume I’m always going to see them or have the ability to communicate the way we do now. There are so many people who don’t get along or have a good relationship with their parents. That makes me sad. I don’t judge it because there are a myriad of reasons why that is. But it makes me sad. It also humbles me and makes me extremely grateful. As my parents get older, I realize there will come a day when I won’t have them physically here. They will be palancing in Heaven with my grandparents, brothers and other loved ones. So while they’re here, I want to soak up every moment, every memory with them that I can. I don’t mind doing things for my mom that in the past I may have been annoyed to do. I don’t mind talking to my dad for hours or getting to spend the entire day with him when he visits me. I recognize that now in my maturity that time is the most valuable asset we have on this planet. Time, once spent, cannot be given back. So when I choose to spend it with the people I love, it matters to me. I am very intentional now about the time I have left on this Earth and how I spend it. If there’s anything Breonna’s murder has taught me is just how precious this time we have really is.
So Black parents, spend time with your kids. If you already do, then spend more time with them. Spend so much time that they get sick of you. Because one day, they may not be here. To every parent that has lost a child, no matter how you did, I send you my complete love. Burying a parent hurts you. Burying child can break you. Don’t take the time that you have been given with your children for granted. Don’t assume they will bury you. One day, that may not be true.