Monday, January 5, 2009

I Am Sean Bell: A Mothers Lament

This video literally moved me to tears.  It spoke to all of the fears that I daily live with as a mother of two black sons.  I have spoken of the ways in which racism has touched the life of  my oldest boy Destruction, but I have never really addressed how it leaves my heart cold with fear.  For those who cannot see why this is a feminist issue, remember that each black boy is the child of a black woman.

I am lucky in that no male in family has died from violence in my lifetime but that is not the case for so many others.  We are not far removed from a time when mothers were called to cut down their sons after they had danced with the rope. The name Emmitt Till haunts every black mother. As my son ages and the world begins to reveal to him the systemic inequality into which he has born, each day my fears for him increase.  I can no longer keep him safe in a stroller.  A simple kiss from me will not wipe away his hurts or his fears. 

Like any other child he pushes for more freedom and more independence, and though he has proven himself to be highly responsible and dependable I am loathe to cut the apron strings because to do so means allowing the world access to my gentle child.  I know that his blackness will speak for him long before he is allowed to protest his innocence.  I know that his blackness will make him a target long before his legs will reach the impulse to run.

My babies are black and it is the legacy of my womb.  No one will think of the loved ones they would leave behind, or the tears that would never cease to flow because their skin is black. 

When I watch videos like this, I think of the many times that I have heard whiteness express irrational fear of blacks.  They don't know what fear is.  They don't know what being a real "other" means.  Should a child have to be taught to fear those that are supposed to protect them?  Should a child have to be taught that through no consequence of their individual actions that their lives are in danger?

I will have to teach my son as he reaches towards maturity to carry himself in ways that white people will not perceive as threatening, while at the same time maintaining some sense of self  balance.  I will have to teach him to be hyper aware of his surroundings with the knowledge that though he is gentle and kind, to the world his blackness makes him predator.  Finally, I will have to teach my son not to hide his face in shame because this is not his fault, it is the fault of whiteness.

As the balance from a white majority shifts and the US becomes a minority majority such vengeance and hatred is bound to escalate.  A shift in power will not be peaceful and it is the children of colour who will pay the price.   Whites will fear an uprising and work twice as hard in their repression to ensure that the balance remains the same. 

My babies are young and still yet I have noticed the ways in which the world has already begun to racialize them.  Adults speak to them in slang that they do not understand, because hey don't all "black folk" speak like that?  White people assume that they want to be rappers, or basketball players, because hey black kids don't have dreams of becoming astronauts or doctors, or in the case of Destruction, archaeologists. 

Already the world is attempting to guide and shape their reality in a way that will make them deposable bodies.  Whiteness wants to know if he can dance or sing, but it has no interest in the fact that he is great at math and fluent in two languages.  If it cannot kill him with bullets, it will attempt to do so with apathy.

Every little black boy is Sean Bell, because every little black boy is viewed as a potential threat to white hegemony.  It matter not if you are gentle and kind, your body will speak for you long before your lips can pause to draw a breathe.

H/T Dawson's Ink


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