If you’re a new reader, I want to introduce you to my four eldest sons.
AJ is 12, Brady is 13, Jax is 11 and Cam, all the way on the right, is 14.
Cam will turn 15 in five short months. He’ll enter high school, as a Freshman, the same day. He’ll be only one grade ahead of Brady, who will enter high school the year after. They will begin the parade of brothers, until all four of them are ruling high school together, Senior, Junior, Sophomore and Freshman. I have waited for that day to come, because I am so proud of who they are.
They are good kids. I’m not talking about academics, although those a good too. They are good PEOPLE. They make mistakes, yes, but overall, I am doing to best I can to send them out into the world as good human beings. I talk to them about drinking, and drugs, and bullying. I talk to them about sex, and consent, and internet porn. I talk, and I talk, and I talk.
Over the last few years, there are very few times I have been rendered speechless. I pride myself on being the mom who has an answer. When a crisis arises, I can usually figure out what to say to make it better. I consider myself the calm in the storm. You’re depressed? I know a GREAT therapist. We’re going to get you help. We’ve got this. You’re being bullied? Let’s talk this through, we are going to figure out the best way to handle this so that you feel better, but no one even knows you told me. You ARE the bully? Wow. I’ve got that too, because no child is perfect all the time, but treating other people like they are worth less than you is NEVER acceptable. You need to learn that. You need to grow. You need to leave my house knowing the meaning of empathy. So, sit down, because there will be accountability for what you have done.
I am the mom who has an answer.
Yesterday, I had none. I have no answers for what to say to them about Jordan Edwards. I’ll admit, I’ve faltered before. I stumbled over discussing Trayvon Martin. I stumbled over discussing Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Alton Sterling, Philando Castille, Freddie Gray. I fell completely when I had to tell them about Tamir Rice. We picked ourselves up from that, but we came up bloodied, bruised and so frightened. There was no accountability there. There was no accountability for what had been done to that boy.
They have said ALL their names. I can’t stop them from hearing about these people, even though many a (white) person on social media has asked me how they know. I have been forced to confront it, because they hear EVERYTHING. They’re not stupid. And, I WANT to confront it. There was power in openly discussing it. I thought that if I tell them about the code, then somehow, I could protect them. Awhile ago, I had to admit to them, I have nothing left to tell you. I asked for people to allow them their fear.
I’ve already done all the recommended “talks.” I tell them all the things I was taught, about making good choices, but I take it one step further. I take it where black parents have been taking it for GENERATIONS, a place I was too ignorant to know existed.
Yes, I just called myself ignorant. I think we all be a lot better off if we got over the pride that leads to willful ignorance.
Last night, as I read the details that were still unfolding about Jordan Edwards’s shooting, I read this…
“In a phone interview with The Post on Sunday night, Merritt said that Jordan, his 16-year-old brother and three other teenage boys were at a party on Baron Drive when they learned that police were on the way.
They went to the car parked outside, saw flashlights and heard gunshots, Merritt said. As they climbed into the car, the teens apparently heard somebody yell profanities. Then they were being fired upon.
They fled for about a block, Merritt said, before they noticed that there was smoke coming from Jordan’s head. The driver of the car, the boy’s older brother, stopped the car, and they flagged down an approaching police cruiser for help.”
His 16 year old brother was the driver.
He had to flag down another police car to help after he realized that his baby brother was dying in the seat next to him.
I couldn’t help it, my minds eye immediately set those four boys, in the picture above, in that car. I pictured Cam, desperately trying to flag someone down to help him as he tried to stop Brady from dying in the seat next to him.
This is what this feels like, I thought, as I sobbed in my closet, where all my ugliest sobbing happens.
This is what it feels like to be on fire with anger, and grief, and so many other emotions.
I am only living with the fear, the mere thought that this is a possibility in my life, as a mother. I am not living through the actual grief of it. It would be an insult to the Edwards family to say I even remotely understood that grief. So, why am I so damn pissed? This is practically a fact of life.
When I dug way down deep, I am angry at me.
I’m angry that I am only now learning what this feels like, the powerlessness to stop any of this happening to my children. I am angry that I got a good couple of decades to live completely ignorant of it. I am angry that I ever bought into the excuses of the apologists, and willful non-apologists, that somehow, a change in behavior could have stopped this from happening, over and over, and over.
I did buy into it. I thought that if I told my children to change their behavior, to make better choices, that I could stop this from happening. I’m angry that I was ever in the camp of “wait and see” or that “body cams will stop this from happening.”
It’s not stopping.
I am angry that I have no power to stop it from happening to these other people, to these mothers.
My sons would have done the exact same thing. Those four boys, who I hope will carry each other through adolescence, will someday, no matter what I say, be at a high school party. I will tell them what everyone tells their children, “If the choices of the people around you aren’t good, if something unsafe is happening, if you are uncomfortable, if the scene is starting to become dangerous, you need to LEAVE. You need to get into the car and drive AWAY.”
I will have told them to do exactly what these children were doing when they were shot at, and when one of them died.
That is the root of my anger. If a 30-something year old, sheltered, white woman is this angry because she has been dealing with the mere idea of this for maybe 1/3 of her life, then can you imagine, for one second, what someone who has been living with this their entire life must feel like?
Can you imagine the way their life might have been different from yours because of this? How their perspective might be changed? Is there something to be learned here? Maybe something about empathy?
Can you step outside yourself, for one second, and not be the apologist we all want to be? Apologies are easy. Actual change is not.
We need actual change.
–FullPlateMom, who is done with hollow apologies and people who do not meet “core values.”