Reclaiming Our Way promoting the well-being of African American children & families

13Dec/140

Four Black mothers share pain of losing sons and a resolve to achieve justice #BlackLivesMatter

Many thousands of people will be out on the streets marching today, in cities across this country. The rallying cry is justice for families and communities whose women, men and children have been killed at the hands of law enforcement officers, and others acting with a sheer disregard - contempt even - for Black life.

Just this past week, four mothers of African American men and boys murdered at the hands of police officers, and one acting in a vigilante law enforcement spirit, sat together for the first time for an interview and discussion about their families' experiences, and their continuing quest for justice for their sons.

The four mothers included:

  • Sybrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon Martin, 17 years old when he was killed by a 'neighborhood watch' person in Florida
  • Gwen Carr, mother of Eric Gardner, 43 years old when he was killed by a police officer in New York City
  • Lesley McSpadden, mother of Michael Brown, 18 years old when he was killed by a police officer in Missouri
  • Samaria Rice, mother of Tamir Rice, 12 years old when he was killed by a police officer in Ohio

From the CNN piece...

Their sons -- Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice and Eric Garner -- have become symbols of a raging national conversation about police brutality and racial injustice.

The mothers of these four unarmed black men and boys felled by bullets or excessive police force have no doubt their sons would still be alive if they were white. No question, they say.

Describing the role of racial profiling in the killing of her son, Sybrina Fulton describes...

The main reason why he was shot and killed was because this neighborhood crime watch was looking for an African American who had been breaking in houses around there, and he picked the wrong teenager. My son was not breaking in any houses, my son was not committing any crime.

Anderson Cooper then 'innocently' asks... "How do you change that perception?", presumably speaking of our greater society.

Fulton's reply is very telling, and clearly explains the wide gulf (more here and here and here for starters) between African American and white perceptions of law enforcement, our respective reactions to the recent high-profile killings of African Americans by law enforcement, and the urgency required for responding to this pattern:

Well, I actually think we need a little divine intervention. Because, I don't really believe that people are going to just change overnight. And it's a more deeply rooted hatred that people have for African Americans. And if you're not an African American... A lot of people don't understand. They don't quite get it. They just think that we are complaining about something that doesn't really exist. And we are living this every day.

I won't spend much time on this, but here's one of the problems I have. Isn't it kind of ironic that Anderson Cooper, one of the most widely recognized news personalities of our time, a white man whose recognition among many is as someone who 'gets it' - and on such a huge network as CNN no less - is asking with his characteristically concerned and innocent tone, how 'you' change that perception? And I get that he was probably using 'you' casually, but I'm not feeling it. His institution represents the problem involved with 'changing that perception'.

I absolutely appreciate the news coverage, and the opportunity to have this group of mothers tell a part of our community's story, but this passive-when-it-wants-to-be news approach is insulting and offensive. Andersoon Cooper, and CNN for that matter, both know exactly how to change that perception. Instead, however, and as a great deal of their Ferguson coverage illustrates, they reinforce that larger societal perception of Blacks as being violent, lawless and to be feared.

The stories of this group of mothers, though, is absolutely worth listening to. The spirit in their voices is powerful, and their steadfast determination not to let the brutal killings of their sons - our collective sons - be forgotten is absolutely admirable.

Let's be clear that lynching is not a thing of the past. This nation's government and legal systems, with media complicity - just have a more sophisticated way of allowing - even encouraging, one could argue - these sorts of horrendous acts of racial terrorism and brutality.

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