A Candle For Tamir: Mothering Black Children in America

“I don’t see myself different than any other mom, black in America or not. We, Moms, want & work to keep our children healthy, happy kids who grow into amazing adults.  However, as a black mom raising children in America, we do face an additional set of challenges…being a black mother in America is being prouder than proud of the accomplishments of our children, but also fearing the worst fears a mother could imagine for our children.” – Shalise

Every year on June 25th, my family lights a candle for Tamir. We light this candle to remember him, his family who grieves, and all the possibilities of his life that were taken. Tamir and my son Shamar share a birthday. Shamar is just two years Tamir’s  junior. Each year I am caught between celebrating the life of my son and mourning that of another. It is now nearly impossible for me to look at my son growing and not think of Tamir. 

When I gave birth to Shamar as my first child, I never thought about his blackness. I never once considered how his being black would make his life more difficult. I was seventeen when I had him, and I had not experienced overt racism, nor did I understand how deeply racism is ingrained into the very fabric of this country.

I’d soon learn. 

“Your Kids Will Just End Up in Jail Anyway”: He Was Three Years Old

The first time the reality of his black skin smacked me in the face, he was only three years old. I was in a Target with my then sister-in-law, standing in the check out line. My son and her daughter were SITTING on the bench just in front of the checkout. They were laughing together as kids that age will do. Apparently, their laughter was somehow insulting to the middle-aged white woman in front of us. She began to tell the kids to be quiet and proceeded to call them bad. My sister-in-law and I immediately cut  in to tell the woman not to speak to our children and told her she was out of line. She then started yelling, “black a**es”, telling us that our precious toddlers would end up in jail anyway.”  She yelled various racist remarks toward us all the way to our respective vehicles.

Why? What makes a person criminalize laughing 3 and 6 year old children?  Apparently, the only qualifier is Black skin. 

That lady will never know or care how much you adore your family.

“The scariest, most challenging job I ever volunteered for, but as I lay here able to get one more cuddle from my little boy, I can say unequivocally that it is worth every exhausted, confused, stress-filled second.” – Monique 

I was seething with anger and visibly shaken. Holding my belly, I mourned because I was about to birth another innocent black child into this volatile environment. From that day forward, I had a different sense and was keenly aware of the way “we” black people had to walk through life. There is an invisible weight tied to our leg that we are forced to drag along with us wherever we decided to venture. 

“As a mom to two amazing brown boys, I wake up excited every morning about what adventures we will take, but you lay down each night with a bit of fear mixed with heart ache. I look in their eyes and see them for the beautiful souls they are, I only wish America could see them the same way.” – Remitha Lynn

I wish all he had to carry was this level of #blackboyjoy

 

Each day, I lived in a world full of daily micro-aggressions that were all irritating, but I became a pro at letting 98% of them blow by because they just weren’t worth me taking my eyes off of my goals. And then Trayvon Martin was murdered. Once again I felt unsafe. Shaken. Vulnerable. Targeted. I remember the day that his murderer, George Zimmerman, was given a not guilty verdict like it was yesterday.

“Knowing that I can teach my children how to do everything “right” when it comes to dealing with the police and still it might not save their life.” -Brent 

I sat on my in-love’s couch and cried an ocean of tears. Grieving for Trayvon like he was my own and for his parents like they were my family. Once again I held my swollen belly praying that this baby wasn’t a boy. Maybe just maybe a little girl would appear less threatening. I was angry that I even have to consider such things. And I would soon learn that being a black female didn’t afford you any special protections.

Sandra Bland.

The death of Trayvon Martin made more people aware of the injustices that occur for people of color in America. People began to be more vocal and some say that it sparked Civil Rights awareness in a new generation. I know that it certainly did for me.

“As the parent of a little brown girl, I parent with pride, joy and a fierce love, as any mom should. Growing up a little brown girl, has made me more aware of the good, bad and ugly that exists in this world. My job as her parent is to equip her for dangers, seen and unseen, to instill in her to pride for her culture, and making sure to teach her to leave this world a better place. As she grows older, I’ll be sure to instill in her that her brown skin isn’t a threat, weapon or anything to be feared.” – Candace

Being a parent to a black child means living in the constant duality of overwhelming joy for the amazing humans that your children are growing into at best, and- at worst- that their lives will be taken by members of law enforcement who were sworn to protect and serve. This is why I will continue throughout the years to light a candle for Tamir while I celebrate Shamar; knowing that at any given moment at any given park with any given gun-like toy, it could have been my son who became a hashtag.   

Happy Birthday, son. Be great.

“Everyday Has to Be A New Day!!! Brand New Mercies” – Paris

 

Thank God for new mercies. A new day to try to make the world kinder. A new day of hope renewed. 

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