I sat on the edge of the kitchen chair, my hands slightly gripping the sides while watching my two-year-old daughter laugh as she yelled, Swat! Her chubby hand accomplished its mission. Another bright, purple, and full of life blueberry completely smashed on her high chair tray. It now lay there in its own juice with contents oozing out.
One blueberry. Two blueberries. Then another one and many more to follow, which were too many to count.
On a typical day, I would launch into my motherly sermon that food is for eating, and you have to eat all your fruit and veggies to grow up big and strong. But not today! Today, I had to turn my head and hide my glistening eyes from the pain I felt from George Floyd’s death.
My innocent baby didn’t have a care in the world. She was having the time of her life playing with smashed blueberries. To me, each blueberry represented the sudden, unnecessary, forceful, and horrific death of yet another Black person at the hand of a powerful and privileged white person in this country.
Another life snuffed out as though it was as meaningless as a blueberry.
The dark juice running over the sides of the high-chair tray reminded me of the blood of my ancestors and, to this day, the blood of my brothers and sisters that continue to stain the streets of this country.
I’m able to clean up the mess my daughter made with a swipe of a wet soapy cloth. But this country can’t be cleaned, made pure or equal with a simple swipe of the wrist.
How do we raise beautiful, confident, and bold Black children in America? I was raised with the belief that my education was the key to getting a good job and building the future I want. I also thought that my success would grow from community service and memberships into Jack and Jill of America, Inc., golf clubs, and other affluent organizations.
How do you cope when you’ve done everything right and you’re still viewed as a threat while driving into your neighborhood? How do you handle not being able to even jog in your own community that you’ve worked so hard to afford and deserve to live in freely?
What are you supposed to do every time your tall, masculine, and handsome husband walks out of the house in the morning? And like clockwork, your stomach turns in knots because you know he’s seen as a threat.
You send your 11-year-old Black, bold and playful son out the door to walk to school, in hopes, he will return home safely. I’m not sure how to maintain faith and be the rock of our family like the strong women that have come before me when all I want to do is scream, kick the wall and crumble into a ball because I don’t know how to handle it all.
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I’m at a loss because I can’t stop the tears from flowing or protect the very people that I would sacrifice my life for. To further add, working in my professional career with a smile on my face, so I’m not seen as an angry Black woman at the office, is exhausting. I’m trying to remain sane and serve my family, but honestly, I don’t know-how.
As a Black mother, the only response I have is positive self-talk and try to accomplish what I can within my power to provide and protect my family. I’m fortunate to have three academic degrees in Public Health. However, it doesn’t take even one of my degrees to know that as a Black person in the United States, you are living an unhealthy life due to a cloud of constant fear, misjudgment, and internalized trauma. It does not matter if you grew up in a one-bedroom apartment or an eleven-bedroom mansion in the city’s best area. You are looked at the same.
So as mothers, what can we do?
Take a deep breath and push on. Admittedly, it’s not always easy, but we first have to provide self-care to ourselves so we can pour out from a place of wholeness. We have to seek therapy and establish healthy routines that encourage us mentally, physically, emotionally, and more.
Only then can we pour love, words of support, and hugs with no end in sight to those in our household. We can’t control the outer world or anyone’s impressions, thoughts, or negative beliefs. On the other hand, we can be a beacon of light within our environment to build up our beautiful children and remind them of their stature as kings and queens.
Lastly, we can do the work. We can collaborate and partner with organizations and other people within our regions who are just as frustrated with racial injustices. We can use our voices to vote, petition, and continue to speak out to change the leadership of our country, states, and cities complacent to the inequalities.
This country was built on the backs and blood of our ancestors. The chains were never broken, only replaced by unfavorable laws promoting systematic oppression.
I will say that today, as Black women, we have to love ourselves and work at healing our trauma, followed by helping our families heal and find meaning in the midst of it all. Most importantly, roll up our sleeves and do everything in our power to leave this country a better place where our children will [actually] be free and not judged by the “color” of their skin but, “the content of their character.”
Just like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I still have that goal as a dream. One day, all of us with beautifully melanated skin can wake up from this unjust nightmare and begin to live the life of true freedom.