Mimmy has been hurting. We have been explaining the police brutality and police murders of black people to her. Death is too close and nebulous for any of us to understand but especially for my baby. And now the killing of Black people by police. We taught her to trust police, to go to them if she was lost. And now she hears these trusted officers are killing people with her skin color. What the hell. How do I explain this one? How do I protect her? At times, she is afraid of being shot when we go out.
The first time we talked, she laid her head in my lap and cried. She worried about her own safety and her tears welled up with her panic. BeBe was explaining to her that the police had done these bad things but that we would keep her safe.
She knows about death. Too many people have died in her young life. At her age, I knew one person who had died and that was my Big Daddy. It makes sense when your grandfather passes. It is sad but it is understandable. When my dad passed away, we could explain that it was cancer or say he had a good long life. She misses him and quotes him and tells us what he is thinking and doing in heaven. Addy’s first boyfriend and another close friend both died as teenagers due to depression or drugs or anxiety or probably all three. Her birth mom died recently. (And that pain surfaces regularly and leaves us both wondering how to cope.) Her cheerleading coach died when hit by a drunk driver. Mim understands the finality that the police caused.
We have been protesting, explaining our every move and every chant to Mim who wants to make sure everyone is safe. She asked BeBe to make her a protest poster. Mim dictated the message. “I’m black. Please don’t shoot me.” (PAUSE. That is a lot for a mom to take in.) When she spots posters with Black faces she asks “Are they passed?” When a name is announced over a microphone, she says, “Who? Who died?” Death feels so present. Too present for a child.
We back away from the protests. I leave the big kids marching and let Mim wander in to ice cream shops or grassy lawns. I hold her. I talk about kids things. Her favorite things. Youtube. Jellybeans. Swimming. Our dogs. And I watch her brain churn.
She wanted to go with the kids to protest a Conferderate monument in our town square. We got there and she didn’t care about this large obelisk prominently displayed. She was worried about the fountain and the statue of the kids. She whispered to me “I don’t think the statue is that bad. They are just playing.” I figured out what she meant and my shoulders sagged and my smile of reassurance spread under my mask. I hoped she could read my eyes and see that the fountain and statue of children was safe. A speaker cried at the protests. Cried over injustice. Others speakers spoke in loud commanding tones. “Take it down.” “Enough is enough.” This felt so strange for my girl who has been told a million times not to break things when she is angry- to use her words! And now her parents, siblings, neighbors, wanted to break down a tall monument of stone. The crowd seemed restless, angry, disappointed, resolute. Mim swallowed the emotions of her fellow souls. To soothe her, we bought a t-shirt, waved to friends in masks, climbed the turned off fountain, and drank root beer from a bottle. Nothing can erase unfairness. Nothing can take away injustice. She has learned awful truths.
And our family is white. We are white and she is black. Our best intentions may not be enough.
I bet you have wondered what good does a sign do in your front yard. If you live in a predominantly white neighborhood with fancy homes and then put a Black Lives Matters sign in your yard, are you helping? Are you part of the solution? Well, for Mim you are. Yes.
Everyday, Mim and I take at least one aimless drive through Atlanta and it’s suburbs. During this quarantine, we just have to get out even if it is out to nowhere. And now while we drive, she counts BLM signs. We announce when we see one in a yard or a window or a street corner “Black Lives Matters” and then we give each other a fist bump and she pats my leg while I drive. “Black Lives Matters!” “People around here really love black people.”
For Mim, your sign is confirmation of her worth. She feels valued because she sees in print that people with her skin color are important. She matters.
So, keep up the signs. Add more. She likes the homemade ones, too.