Time is moving with little regard for my hopes or desires. The predictable chapters of dating, marriage, first house, first baby, jobs, deaths, second baby, then third baby blur, pages racing faster than I can read or write.
I didn’t imagine time would slow, but maybe I thought I could catch up to it.
I was going to sign my daughter up for dance, then it was too late.
“Most girls are already beyond intermediate, she’ll never catch up.”
I was going to create a plan for spring outings, but the season passed.
I was going to make dates with my daughters, my husband; I was going to go back to pilates.
Not sure that I will.
I’ve gone from saying, “I promise” to “I’ll try to look into that,” but it never happens. I get sucked into laundry, I peek at Twitter, I take on a commitment, I mend a stuffed animal. I look up and I have the wrong month on the calendar because I missed June ending.
It takes my breath away that we are more than halfway through Briar’s childhood; there was so much I was going to do and it’s too late.
I’ve started writing more about my experiences as a girl and a woman that don’t belong on a resume or suit dinner table conversation.
I was going to voice my support for Hillary Clinton earlier, but I worried about my business.
I was going to speak out against the calls to end NY SAFE act, but again I feared what it would do to business.
I was going to be a louder advocate for LGBTQ, but then I wondered if I did enough.
I was going to write about Black Lives Matter and I did, but not enough.
I was going to write about Alton Sterling, but I wasn’t sure what to say.
I was going to write about Philando Castile, but then Dallas happened.
Too late. Too little. Too hard.
The “too” of it all will silence you, daunt you into believing you could never make a difference. My chest feels heavy, my heart feels fluttery, and my cheeks flame as I read and listen to the words of black and white women raising black boys.
I fear swimming pools, date rape, and texting while driving for my girls.
Being shot in a park for looking dangerous? Never.
Getting roughed up for wearing the universal hoodie of the teen years? Not a chance.
Being too angry? Nope.
Too loud? Uh huh.
The most looming threats to my girls are that they’ll feel the need to be thinner, sexier, or more liked on social media. Sure, there’s workplace crap, misogyny, harassment, work life balance lies, but there is very little chance they will be killed for taking up space in the wrong way. Neither will my husband.
Yesterday morning I was sitting on my back deck sharing a post written by a local blogger about the increasing violence in our country. Briar sat beside me, clearly wanting to talk. My pull to finish the post was frantic. I gave her a just a minute and then another. She kept watching me. I thought about talking to her about Philando Castile or, more specifically, his girlfriend and 4 year old daughter. I shook my head, her eyebrows lifted in question.
I took a deep breath and set my computer aside.
“Honey, I haven’t been writing much lately and right this minute I have something I can share that, well, I just feel like I have to.”
She shrugged and smiled, “It’s ok, mama. I can wait.” I wanted to cry.
I took a deep breath and my voice shook. “Yesterday a man and a woman were driving, their four year old daughter was in the back seat. The family was black. A white police officer pulled them over because their tail light was out.” I scanned her face to make sure she was listening.
“When the police office asked for a driver’s license the man explained that he had a gun and that he had a permit to carry it.” She interrupted me.
“He had a gun?”
“Yes, but he had it legally. He had a permit, just like a fisherman would get to fish, that let’s him carry a gun. He told the officer that he was going to get his driver’s license.” Now as I explained this I didn’t talk about the fact that passengers in cars don’t usually have to provide their license. I didn’t explain that there is a phrase: Driving While Black. I stuck to the most basic of facts. “As he reached for his wallet the officer shot him.”
I didn’t tell her he still had his seat belt on. I didn’t explain that I had watched the Facebook video of the man’s girlfriend Diamond Reynolds. I didn’t say that she couldn’t lay her hands on him and kiss his forehead. She couldn’t comfort her daughter. I just said, “He did nothing wrong and the bullets from the police man killed him. I almost stopped, but then I said, “The police officer never called anyone to help the man.”
She looked into the air, her face turning softly back and forth and her lips moving like she was trying to form words that would make sense from thin air.
“Mom, what is it though. Why? Why do they kill black men? Do black men look evil? Do they seem too strong to live?” She was moving her arms and searching my face expecting me to have something else to say, a way to make sense of people dying. She has been preoccupied with death and what it means, how to avoid it, what happens after we die, this new proposition that some people will lose their lives in such a way rocked her.
I swallowed. “Yes, for blackness. He was killed in front of his daughter and girlfriend. Gone forever. Are you ok? And are you ok if I share this?”
She nodded, her eyes welling, “You have to.”
I really don’t know where to go from here, I only know that I’m no longer going to be a victim to too.
There is no too late if we start now.
There is no too hard if you commit to trying.
There is no too hopeless if we refuse to give up hope.
I will never be black, but I will never be silent again.
I’m reading and hearing you. Adding my voice to yours.
Thank you, Nadine!
Extraordinary! Your words are so thoughtfully composed and acutely and honestly expressed. We read your posts faithfully because you so often articulate what we are thinking on critical topics of the moment. The dangers of being black and living in America has reached critical mass. Something has to be done to insure that all people are treated respectfully, humanely and fairly. The country badly needs uniform policing codes, standards, training and education. Barack Obama has done more than any president I can remember to address the reality of Black Lives Matter. It’s time for others on the national, state and local levels to step up and provide the same kind of leadership. You’re right, it’s not hopeless but so much work needs to be done.
Richard, I really appreciate it when you take the time to comment. I think the more we put these compassionate and aimed-at-change words together, the better chance we have of edging out the unconscionable things that are happening to black people. In a FB tangle with an all lives matter person the other day I tried to explain that this deeply wounds people in law enforcement as well, why it hasn’t spurred more of them to action, I don’t know. Repairing the breakdown benefits all of us.
This is lovely.
Thank you so much!
I was listening to a podcast today on which someone said, “When I get too far into my head, I go to my heart.” You’re living this on your post today. I’m so glad you’re speaking out – I am, too.
That’s beautiful. Thank you, for the comment and for speaking out!
Thank you, Nina!