In Response to a Cop’s Cry
Recently, I read an online posting from a concerned parent (and police officer) of a young Kentucky school student regarding a picture that hung in his child’s classroom that disturbed him.
It was a childlike drawing of a hooded KKK member pointing a gun at a blindfolded Black man kneeling beneath him, flanked by a Confederate flag and the date of 1930 bordering the top of the scene. Juxtaposed to this was a similar image of a Black child wearing a hoodie, offering an officer a bag of Skittles as he pointed a gun at the child’s head. Again, the image was bordered with the date 2015 and an American flag.
You can see the depiction below.
It’s a somber scene, especially when compared to the drawing of a dove beneath it whose messages of “perseverance” and “solidarity” are written across its body and wings. The parent listed the telephone number, the name and address of the school where this picture hung as he rallied his fellow Facebook friends to demand its removal.
The author of the post explained that the assignment was meant to provide a visual response to the classroom’s reading of To Kill a Mockingbird, and that he, as a first responder, was deeply offended by the fact that his daughter is being subjected to such a hostile environment.
“My daughter is not unlike other children of first responders. She fears for my safety every day, and believes me to be a man of honesty and courage. She is proud to say I am her father and tells others what I do for a living. What this propaganda creates, are future cop haters, which endanger me, and 800,000 other courageous protectors. We speak of tolerance, we speak of changing hostile environments, we speak of prejudice, and we speak of racial relations, yet, when it comes to hostility toward police, their families, and profiling them through bigotry we are expected to tolerate it. I will not, nor will my child.”
The post, which is no longer visible to the public, has been shared more than 3,372 times.
I reread his words many times to process the image, his concern and the concerns of his supporters regarding the drawing’s removal. It should have been easy to relate to as I, too, am the daughter of a first responder. I can recall the late nights our home phone would ring and immediate worry filled the household when we realized my father still hadn’t made it home. I know firsthand the amazing responsibilities that we place on our first responders, and the oath they uphold every day they enter the streets to face demons that many of us are privileged to avoid because of their bravery. I see the sacrifices our officers have made as bequest to the public and I would be remiss to say that there exists a harder job.
But I am also a Black woman.
And for every headline, every printed page that totes the name of yet another unarmed Black child whose body lay lifeless in the street because of mistaken identity, because they decided to take the stairs, because they needed help after a car accident, because they played with a toy gun, because they didn’t answer “Yes sir” or “No sir” to an officer who didn’t like their tone, because they shopped at Walmart, I know there is another Black woman—a Black mother just like myself who is trying to piece together her life after having seen a part of it taken so violently and inexplicably from her.
I feel her.
Although I haven’t had the privilege of bringing life into this world, I couldn’t imagine the pain and emptiness that comes when that life is taken from it. I cannot imagine what emotions remain marred in the spirit of Mike Brown’s mother, Tamir Rice’s mother and John Crawford III’s mother when they still have absolutely no resolve in the death of their children; when the system they pay to protect them is acquitted of its responsibility to adhere to its own standard.
So to the parents that shared this photo, who have bombarded the message boards with their opines of disgust, who feel a certain sort of way about how a child reflects on a fictional tale and how it plays out in their own lives, I really want to ask at what point are we, as Blacks in this country, allowed to be equally offended at the lives lost so casually to police violence?
When are we allowed to have a platform to express emotion, pain, seek justice? When are we allowed to show you the truth of our lives without it offending yours? One child’s painting was shared 3,372 times because it offended one parent. 75 sets of parents will never see their child again. Isn’t it ironic when fear has more value when it’s painted on a sheet of paper and placed on a window sill rather than when its image is a direct reflection of life?
According to The Counted, a website dedicated to tracking the number of deaths caused by police, 1,140 individuals died at the hands of police in 2015. Of that number, 303 of those individuals were Black and 75 were unarmed.
75 lives. 75 families. 75 potential mothers out there who look like me, trying to gather what remains of themselves to adjust to the sudden loss of their child. And although I cannot name with any certainty who lay at fault for these circumstances, I know that these people, whatever their crime, will never have an opportunity to see the same trial our white, Kalamazoo Uber driver will see.
I know that Dylann Roof, the 21-year-old white terrorist, has a strong possibility of receiving the mental care he may need after taking the lives of nine African Americans at a church in Charleston. I know that all of these white “lone wolves” will get their turn in court, simply because well…they survived their arrest.