Mama

May 30, 2020

Friday, May 29, 2020.

 

It is 1:27 a.m. The windows are open, and two barred owls call and respond. A duet.

 

I am on the couch looking for words about George Floyd. I can't find them. Silence is complicity. The owls know. They call over and over, looking for one another. I don't know what to say. 

 

Floyd's family shares pictures, and his face is kind. His brother says he was a gentle giant. I wonder if he knew his name would carry weight and that his death would bring an entire nation to rage and mourn. I wonder if he knew a photograph of his face would pop the bubble of a privileged white mother sitting on her couch in the middle of the night.

 

My words are cheap. I should know more than I do.

 

I google "Black men killed in police custody" and follow one link and then another. Eventually, a scrollable row of names and young African-American male faces appears at the top of the screen. They all have the same heading.

 

Shooting of Michael Brown

Shooting of Jonathan Ferrell

Shooting of Jordan Davis

Shooting of Anthony Lamar Smith

Shooting of Ramarley Graham

Death of Eric Garner

Shooting of Jon Crawford III

Death of Freddie Gray

Shooting of Amadou Diallo

Shooting of Anthony Hill

Shooting of Tamir Rice

Shooting of Walter Scott

Shooting of Alton Sterling

Shooting of Oscar Grant

Shooting of Larry Jackson, Jr"

 

It keeps going, one after another.

 

Ahmaud Arbery is not in the list, yet.

 

I see sons.

 

Two years ago, a woman at Hy-Vee asked me for a ride home. Her car in the parking lot wouldn't start. She was a Black woman. She was older than me. She seemed tired. She was quiet. She lived with her adult son in an apartment not far from my house, on a street filled with fraternity and sorority houses from a small university two blocks over.

 

She held one bag of groceries on her lap. The other rested on the floorboard between her feet. Her name was Kim.

 

We drove in awkward silence until I mentioned I had a son who would soon turn six. For the rest of the drive, we talked about motherhood. That was the common ground, or so I thought, and the entry point for connection. It was her son's car she had been driving, because he'd borrowed hers -- more reliable -- for a job interview out of town. 

 

It only occurs to me now that her experience with motherhood was likely quite different from mine. At the time, I just thought, Here we are: Boy Moms.

 

I look for George Floyd's mother. 

 

I find this mother, instead.

 

And this mother.

 

And this mother.

 

George Floyd's mother is dead. I don't watch the video of his murder. I read that he called out for her near the end. This makes me cry. My son is asleep in my bed. Night after night: "Mama, can I sleep with you?" He says he feels safer when he is next to me and when the light is on. 

 

 

 Minneapolis burns. It isn't so far from here.

 

Georgina Dukes wrote: "Every last one of those men that killed an unarmed black boy was raised by a mother. I wish that mother had the opportunity to read this post when her child was young."

 

My son and I will talk tomorrow. I'll start there.

 

I watch an interview with Eric Garner's mother, Gwen Carr. The reporter asks her if she thinks progress has been made. She responds that the quick action to fire the police officers involved with Floyd's death was good. It had taken five years to see action in her own son's case. But it's not enough, she adds. Progress, yes, but it's slow, and it's not enough.

 

I heard someone once refer to our large, public systems as dinosaurs. Progress within them rarely moves quickly or fluidly or all at once. Too many movable parts, arthritic and accustomed to the jaunty angles they've been holding for generations. Too many layers to pierce.

 

History has a thick hide.

 

 

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