I was like many of you, completely appalled, horrified, and disgusted at the murder of Tyre Nichols.
He was just twenty-nine years old.
A son, a father, a free-spirit, a skateboarder. A man. An African American man who could be heard on the video asking, "What did I do?" To no response of his crime other than being a tall, skinny, Black man in Memphis, TN.
Must our color be our death sentence?
I've been asking this since the 90s when as a young woman I was first confronted with the video of the police beating down an unarmed Black man.
And the incessant calls for AfricanAmericans to be peaceful in the midst of the most unpeaceful actions by those in law enforcement.
Back in the 90s, I was a newly divorced mom with three sons who moved from the big city back to my hometown with three really cute boys who would have white ladies stop and comment on how cute they were.
It was something I talked about when I led diversity training. Back when the boys were just boys and before Missouri and other states started criminalizing them ad nauseam.
1994 was when Missouri instituted the Safe Schools Act and it was not long after that when my oldest son, he just turned 36 yesterday, was met with the aggression of a white male teacher who was just itching to make a skinny, be speckled little boy pay for life because he was sun kissed.
My son is not a tall man, he inherited those diminutive genes from our family tree that barely reached 5'0, he is 5'2" and thin. When he was a little boy, he was a little boy, but had gumption and muscles.
He and I talk about him being in second grade and that white male teacher who yanked him by the backpack and was swinging him in the hallway, and my son instinctively pushed the grown man off him. The result was my son being charged.
It took hiring an attorney and even the school counselor pleading with that judge and white man to drop the charges. The man was a grown grown man, my son was a tiny second grader and the man had struck him first.
Being a mother of African American sons in this country is hard.
It has always been hard.
We have poured out our lives for their sake in a society that doesn't deem them worthy of living
Now, I am blessed in that my son has made it to thirty-six.
Despite two major attempts on his life the almost made it that I would be visiting a gravesite and not FaceTiming with him.
He is an artist and intellectual. He owns his own business, and despite living with permanent disabilities because of being shot, he has a zest for life that is infectious.
Tyre deserved to live.
Like the litany of Black men and boys who have been slaughtered by this unjust and oppressive system, he deserved to live.
It didn't matter that the ones who beat him to death were Black.
They used to gather around for the spectacle of watching enslaved men fight to the death for a morsel of food.
American history is replete with stories like this.
Boxing, football, all those bloodbath sports have an origin in how the monied classes used to watch people beat each other for just the hope of some kind of living.
That the white police officer has not been identified, has not been charged, and as far as we know as of this writing, has not been removed from office, is not unexpected.
Something in me thinks he made those officers do that beating, they went out to hunt. They were in a fraternity of death and hate, that Scorpion Squad.
Did they think Tyre didn't belong there?
Do we ever belong in this society that counts our sun kissed skin as sin?
My heart weeps for Tyre's mother and also Bryonna's mother upon learning that these two young souls, both killed by police, share the exact same birthday - to the date. I weep for all the mothers we still don't know about.
What do we do?
My sister preacher in Memphis and fellow public theologian was called on to be there, she led a rally, she led a vigil, she was interviewed. Like me she hadn't watched the video but she said she heard his screams. She signed so deeply that I felt it all the way here.
We all sighed so deeply.
There were news reports and of course, the media trying to use it for ratings. They pulled out talking heads from protests-past and experts all trying to say the same thing that has been said ad nauseam.
None of this is in a vacuum, none of this is by accident, and none of it has to be this way.
What I hope and pray is for our shared humanity to shine.
But we have been hoping for that forever.
I don't know.
There aren't many words that make sense of what happened.
So I am choosing to center love and joy for my family and the people I'm blessed to come in contact with.
They told us that love is stronger than hate.
A sister friend sent me Psalm 27 this morning.
I read it.
My faith compels me to believe that none of this is happening without God intervening on behalf of the oppressed.
That is the very reason God came down and walked this earth in human form.
Surely, surely the Creator of theUniverse is hearing the cries of the martyred.
Whatever comes, what I do know is that we will still love, we will still find reasons to laugh. We, African Americans, have had to, not because we are better or stronger than anyone else, but because we want to have a life that is not all consumed by the forces of evil so much that we forget our humanity.
Maybe that is my song in my heart.
That we would look out and see the ImagoDei - the Images of God in all of us, this Creator of the Universe who so uniquely crafted us to be beautiful reflections of Godself.
If I didn't believe that, my heart would grow cold because as the calendar keeps turning any my age creeps up more and more. I don't want to grow cold and unfeeling.
Maybe that is why we have protested.
Why those who went out in the streets to speak to our shared presence on this earth, our shared right to live.
So much more is needed and I don't have answers.
I'm just a mom right now, feeling a mother's heart, musing.
©2023. All Rights Reserved. Sitting in my library in Connecticut thinking about it all