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On Baltimore and Raising a Black Baby Boy

Motherhood, Art, And Police Brutality

Sybrina Fulton. Samaria Rice. Lesley McSpadden. Gloria Darden. Andrea Irwin.

I have met none of these women. But I do not have to meet them to know they want their sons Trayvon, Tamir, Mike, Freddie, and Tony alive. They want them thriving, successful and to be able to do something sweet for them, to watch them grow at every stage. They want to marvel and remember them as babies, then toddlers. Yet they are mothers without their sons. Senselessly. In the words of Tonya from August Wilson’s King Hedley II, “Who turned the world around like that? What sense that make?” In the monologue, Tonya attempts to make her husband, King, see why she does not want the baby she is carrying. “I’m through with babies…I ain’t raising no kid to have somebody shoot him. To have his friends shoot him. To have police shot him…I don’t want to raise no more babies when you got to fight to keep them alive.”

I am the mother of a Black baby who will grow into a tall, large Black man–the kind of man the police fear and profile. And sometimes–too often–murder. This is painful to write, acknowledge, consider. It haunts me so much that I have thought more than once about leaving America, the only home I know, the home that does not seem to understand itself unless the blood of young Black men stain the streets and pavement, unless a Black male body breaks in the back of a van, unless a gang of cops strangle a Black man to death. But this is not new. It is a crisis as old as slavery, rooted in its institution. The American flag is stained with Black male blood, over centuries and centuries. If we could see the flag as it is, there would be no white. Only red. Blood red. And soiled, unholy blue.

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