Dear Decaturish – Consider reality for Black AmericaA mural in Decatur's Oakhurst neighborhood
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In April my thirty-five year old brother died unexpectedly of a heart attack. It was a shock I still do not fully accept. The finality of his death haunts me every day and it, of course, has brought many morbid thoughts across my mind. My brother dying was never in the realm of possibility, at least until we were much older. Now it is a reality and with it comes thoughts of my own mortality and that of my family.
This includes the lives of my precious little boys, a four-year old and a five month old. As I bathed my four year old tonight, I thought of the grieving mother and father whose precious boy, Michael Brown, was shot and killed in Ferguson, Missouri. I thought of the grieving children in New York City who miss their father, Eric Garner, who was killed back in July. I then traced my own thoughts from the past couple months to the realm of possibilities I produced in my mind in thinking about the horrid possibility of losing my boys. One time it was the thought of a car accident. Another time it was a bike accident. A different time it was a jolt into the street while a car unknowingly passes. Still, at other points, it was a health issue unable to be beaten. We are a white family. I only thought of our racial reality, accidents or unfortunate health issues. At no point did I think of the possibility of my sons being gun downed by our domestic law enforcement.
This is a reality for Black America. It is not a reality for White America. If you are a white parent watch your child sleep tonight and allow the alternate reality of multiple gunshot wounds sink in. Shocking to even think about. I know. Wounds for being a teenager whose skin color drums up prejudicial fear and disrespect to the point where their humanity is devalued and defaced, where routine interactions on the street escalate to death.
I could go on now to discuss all the ways our political, social, economic, and criminal justice systems are set up to keep power within the privileged hands of White America but I want to stay close to the lives that have been lost recently. I’d rather focus on the loss of a son, a father and grieving families. BUT this wouldn’t tell the whole story. This wouldn’t do the stories of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, to name only two, justice. Their tragedies are a part of a racial reality in America that is not fair, equitable, or, most importantly, inclusive. Their deaths are a reflection of where we are as a community of Americans when it comes to what is valued (or devalued) across racial lines.
So, take a moment white folks, in between ice buckets, and think about this reality for Black America. Take a moment and think about the loss of a child through a systemic social perception of who is important and who is not important with your child on the outside looking in. Take a moment and discover your privilege. Take a moment and build community with people across racial lines. Take a moment and teach your child.
Oakhurst Presbyterian Church in Decatur, Georgia is a multiracial congregation with a simple message: everyone is a Child of God. This is a powerful place to start. I am a proud member. Take a moment to actually talk about the issues with others. It’s amazing what you can discover. Today I learned about a co-worker’s son winning a civil suit for a wrongful termination of employment because his dreadlocks were too long. It started by us talking about Ferguson. Take a moment to speak up if others dismiss the social upheaval in the aftermath of these deaths by violence. Take a moment and realize Michael Brown and Eric Garner are not coming home. So, if this is the case? If this is where the nation rests, what reality are we condoning? Take the moments in each day, week, month, or year to build community and understanding across racial lines where ever you are. It won’t be easy but as we have seen, lives and the humanity of us all are at stake.
Charlie Copp-Decatur, GA 33