Trigger warning: Race-based violence and description of George Floyd’s murder
May is my favorite month. Between Mother’s Day, my birthday, as well as friends and family birthdays, May is the best! It symbolizes change.
It’s also the month my husband and I became parents for the first time. Despite this quarantine, we were gearing up for a milestone: Our son was turning 13. His smile lights up our lives. Fun-loving, he still sits on my lap and gives daily hugs. I enjoy our talks about the world and what it was like “back in the day” when I was a kid.
Being an intellectually curious athlete, performer, and leader, his future is bright. I see him as a gift to the world. After a painful miscarriage, our son was God’s gift to our family. He is special to us and to those that know him.
He shouted the words that ripped apart my already-torn heart: ‘Mama… Mama!’
Yet, here we were again. During the week of my son’s birthday, we were processing the traumatizing reality of another Black man being murdered by a police officer.
George Floyd was murdered by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. In a video captured by citizen witnesses, we saw Chauvin press his knee into Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds. Three other officers were on the scene; no one stopped Chauvin from administering this unauthorized-turned-lethal force. The way in which Chauvin kept his hands in his pockets, as if to get more leverage on Floyd’s neck, appeared nothing short of sadistic. Onlookers repeatedly asked Chauvin to put handcuffed Floyd in the car and to let him breath. Witnesses told Chauvin that Floyd’s nose was bleeding and pleaded to check his pulse.
Echoing the haunting words of Eric Garner, George Floyd pleaded, “ I can’t breathe.” Then, he shouted the words that ripped apart my already-torn heart.
In that moment George Floyd’s face shifted into that of my son’s. My son was calling MY name. I am a mother. I have birthed a son and two daughters. Every bit of my maternal instinct was ignited. My son was calling for me. He needed me. But, I could not protect him. I could not save him from this “officer of the law” who had his knee on his neck, the neck that grew in my womb. The neck that was so fragile, it took weeks before it was strong enough to support his infant head.
The man George Floyd, son to a deceased mother, was once a boy like mine.
Can’t you hear him calling your name? That’s a call for help, safety, protection, and love. It’s a human cry. No matter what your ethnicity or language, Mama, Mother, Ma, Mater, Mum, Mère, and Amá are all symbolic of a relationship. This relationship is intended to provide protection, nourishment, education, morality, belonging, and, most importantly, love. That’s what George cried out for in what would end up as his last moments of life.
When George Floyd called for his mama, he called me. He called you, too. He called you to respond to a human cry for help. My mother’s intuition heard a cry for protection against those sworn to protect yet choose to brutalize. I heard a cry to end the racism that had a knee on his neck and is at the root of so much police brutality that plagues Black men and women. I heard a cry for freedom. That cry was a call to act on the behalf of every human who is being traumatized by racism and police brutality.
Mamas, are you hearing the call?
As a Black mother, I am doing everything in my power to love and protect my children. Unfortunately, in our race-based society, too many of my sisters have lost their cherished children to police brutality. As mamas, we have influence and power. We can actively resist racism by raising anti-racist children. We can educate ourselves and our children on the triumphant yet traumatic history of our people in America.
At our schools, we can encourage the hiring of cultural competent, anti-racist educators and acquire anti-racist, anti-bias curricula. We can contact local officials to encourage fair policing and police department restructuring. Fill out your Census form. Vote OUT elected officials that support racist policies, racist ideas, and stoke the flames of racism. Vote OUT prosecutors who fail to recommend appropriate sentencing for police brutality. Vote IN candidates that enact and support anti-racist policies and anti-racist ideas.
Silence has never worked. Silence will not make a better future for your children.
And to white and non-Black women in this country, speak up! Resist the urge to settle into the comfort of silence. For over 400 years African Americans have endured systemic oppression. The States of America—we aren’t united—became a superpower through the free labor of enslaved Africans. Once enslavement was supposedly abolished, Black people, human beings, were forced into second-class citizenship through Jim Crow laws.
History tells us that a minority of White people spoke out against enslavement and inequality. The sad truth is that most people were content with Africans in America being considered three-fifths of a person. Many were silent to the horrors of our oppression. They nursed their privilege or remained conveniently ignorant to the plight of Black people.
Silence has never worked. Silence will not make a better future for your children. Silence leads to the continued dehumanization of Black people. It also leads to the deepening of White supremacy, which negatively impacts us all. White supremacy at its core is dehumanizing to all people. Mama…Mama! Do you hear your name? This is a mamas’ rally cry. All mamas should respond. Remember the saying, “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.” Mamas, take your rightful place of rule and actively resist racism and police brutality.
Say his name.
Make being an anti-racist mama and raising anti-racist children your priority.
The time is now.