The Burden of Black Motherhood

From the moment his name flittered through my Twitter timeline, Jordan Russell Davis’ killing has haunted me. His death is an anchor to a continual, unmarred grief. Too soon, we are facing the loss of another black teenage boy who faced the end of a barrel and lost the battle for his future.

Revered hip-hop site, Global Grind, provided a brief summation of the events leading up to Davis’ final breath. There were enough details to satisfy the curious and incite the enraged still mourning Trayvon Martin.

“Seventeen-year-old Jordan Russell Davis was shot and murdered by 45-year-old Michael David Dunn after the two got into a verbal confrontation over loud music.

Jordan was sitting in a car when Michael pulled up next to him to complain that he was playing his music too loud outside of a convenience store in Jacksonville, Florida. From there, the two exchanged words when Dunn, a registered gun owner and collector, used his firearm to shoot at Davis’ vehicle. He fired eight or nine times, striking Jordan twice in the back seat. No one else was harmed.

Since Jordan’s death on Friday, Michael has entered a not-guilty plea deal, claiming that he felt ‘threatened.’ His lawyer stated that Michael acted responsibly and in self-defense.

Jordan was a student at Samuel W. Wolfson High School, a magnet school in Jacksonville.”

Trayvon Martin
Trayvon Martin

He has been eulogized through social media and was even the subject of a coveted open letter from Melissa Harris-Perry. Our collective community grieves for his soul and emit love, light and positive spirits to his grieving parents, We ache for a lethal injection to “Stand Your Ground” laws. Plead for a overhaul of our violent culture, where guns reign supreme. We target our anger toward Florida, where both teenagers had their final conversations with the grim reaper. We hope Florida’s commissioners, state attorneys and other elected officials begin to cherish the lives of our black boys.

Writer Edward Wyckoff Williams captures our weeping spirits in an article for The Root:

“These tragedies also exacerbate America’s sordid history of racial injustice and racial violence, particularly as it has affected young black men. Black males’ lives have been subjected to a three-fifths compromise, the atrocities of Jim Crow, police brutality, racial profiling and mass incarceration. For too many African Americans, the stain of the nation’s dark racial past makes it nearly impossible to see these deaths as anything but the violence of subjugation and absolute disregard for the lives of young black men.

In a culture that caricatures black youths as perpetrators and criminals, men such as Dunn and Zimmerman seem empowered, entitled and emboldened to use deadly force against any black male — as if brown skin alone were a badge of dishonor. The truth? These were not thugs, gang members or drug dealers. They were sons, grandsons, nephews, brothers and friends.”

But what haunts me more than Jordan’s sudden end and inextricable connection to others who have met his fate is that I will birth black, male children.

Names: Mekhi, Malcolm and Micah

Their father’s perseverant spirit mixed with my ambition.

A love for martial arts and Blankman.

My children.

And when they have reached the ripe age when adult supervision is cause for public shaming, we will have the talk. Not the archetypal birds and the bees or the valuing of work ethic over accomplishment conversations. Those aren’t as urgent.

Avert your gaze, son.

Answer the questions succinctly and without arrogance.

Be sure to alert the officer to all moves.

Don’t wear a hoodie or question a man that is following you.

Avoid loud music in parking lots.

You are an endangered species.

Son, you are a target.

I will spew the statistics.

Between January 1 and March 31, 2012, 28 African Americans have been killed by supposed “keepers of the peace,” including police officials and security guards.

Eighteen of those killed were unarmed.

Eleven had committed no crime, but were deemed suspicious.

After the discussion, I will envelope them in my nurturing arms and embrace away their worries.

On the left, Emmitt Till. On the right, Trayvon Martin.

Every morning before we depart from the brownstone, I’ll hug them, tighter than the dawn before, knowing that one of them might bump into Michael Dunn or George Zimmerman clones on their way to the store … or the mall … or even the mailbox.

As their aspirations evolve into realities and they ascertain their own slices of Americana pie, I know one caustic encounter could turn Mekhi, Malcolm and Micah’s potential into promises unfulfilled. Their dreams deferred, transferred to foundations in honor of their lives.

The burdens of black motherhood are innumerable.

I am frightened. Like past the point of faith sufficing afraid. Like Trayvon Martin before that fatal gunshot afraid. Like Troy Davis on the death march to his execution afraid. Like Jordan Davis staring into the demented pupils of his killer afraid. Like Emmitt Till on that blistering August night in Mississippi afraid.

All black mothers are.

Raising Mekhi, Malcolm, and Micah in a “post-racial” nation where race is still the deciding factor, where their citizenship is second-class, where a loud bass-line can cost them their lives, reaffirms the burden of black motherhood.

This womb is unprepared.

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