I was on vacation when I received the news about Alton Sterling’s and Philando Castile’s deaths. I had put the boys to bed and was trying to quickly skim through the news on my phone before I went to bed when I read that both men were killed.
At first I was confused, thinking I was just mixing up names within one story. I thought I was just tired and not reading my AP News Feed correctly. I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that within two days, two different black men were gunned down by police. And yet I could.
Along with anger, sadness, frustration, I have also felt a sense of fault. And that feeling of fault, fully resonated after seeing a particular image that has not left my thoughts. A woman, a mother, being arrested while protesting in Baton Rouge.
Ieshia Evans left her home and child, to travel to Baton Rouge to protest and fight for her son’s rights. I look at this image and see two men in riot gear, seeming off-balance, as they prepare to arrest her. I see a woman with incredible strength and power. I see two feet planted firmly on the ground and a spine standing straight, not giving up. I see a mother. And all the mothers that came before her fighting for the rights and lives of their children.
This image has been hard to look at, because it has caused me to truly look inside myself and wonder what have I been doing to support my fellow citizens. Reading other people’s articles and re-posting other people’s thoughts and experiences isn’t actively participating in the movement. I have had to be honest with myself and acknowledge that I have more often felt, “how can I effect change when the problem seems so big?”
I talk about needing to raise my children in a city because there is more diversity here and yet I live in a mostly white neighborhood and don’t actively seek out ways of participating in the different cultural experiences that live within our city.
It is a hard realization when, I have always thought of myself as someone who fought against racial injustice but really, I have been a bystander, while so many Black Americans fight for their lives.
I see Ieshia Evans, a woman, a mother and I must no longer simply express my anger at where we are as a nation in terms of equality and racism. I need to be a true ally and stand, spine straight with Ieshia and the countless other mothers, and fight for their children, as well as my own. Because it is crucial that my children carry the torch in protecting equality, otherwise how can they be a mindful, participant in their own communities and country? How can they be wholly human?
I watch the way my dear friend’s son, a year older than my boys, is always so kind and sweet to my guys. He has helped push Atlas up the slide when he couldn’t get up on his own, or given encouraging words when one has struggled with something. His kindness is innate. I am always so grateful for the way he treats the boys, being the “bigger” kid. I know that a few years from now, when they are no longer toddlers, the way they react to society and the way society reacts to them will be different. I need to stand by Ieshia’s side so my children will stand by his.
And for my friend, who has never wavered in working to have honest, thoughtful conversations about race and share her experiences, even when the responses have sometimes been unkind. I am in awe of her and believe she must be exhausted. But she doesn’t stop. I need to stand by her side, as a true ally, friend and fellow mother. To continue to educate myself, my children and add my voice to the rising tide of voices calling for change. #Blacklivesmatter