Editor’s note: HelloBeautiful has resurfaced the below article in the wake of the two-year death anniversaries of Alton Sterling (July 5) and Philando Castile (July 6).
As we watch the body camera footage chronicling the last tragic moments of a 22-year-old Sacramento man named Stephon Clark, I am thinking about his two children.
I am thinking about the woman who has to raise them. Who must walk into a room while she straddles her own sorrow, to tell them that their father is dead–that he is never coming back. What questions will arise in the aftermath, full of shouting and tears? To persistently rely on the accounts of family and friends to give an accurate portrayal of their father because their father is no longer available. He cannot speak words of affirmation. He cannot hug them when they fall. He cannot teach them how to be men.
It is only in memory that he will live.
What about their shared silence at future celebrations? The graduations, ceremonies and weddings where an absent chair might have held his place? Are we prepared for the rage? Are we prepared for their apathy? Are we prepared for their grief?
I am also thinking about the families that have come before them, who will no doubt welcome them into an unlucky fold. A club that no one asked to belong to.
When Emmett Till‘s mother Mamie heard the news that her son was ripped from her, did she cower in her grief? The world saw her resounding will, but I am wondering who was there to hold her, to ask “Are you ok?” Who was there to hug her after her son’s casket lay open for the world to see?
I think of Coretta Scott King. Who was fatigued way before her husband lay lifeless on a Memphis balcony, but found the determination to hold up the torch they had once held together–with her strength. It is the same resilience brought to Sybrina Fulton and Gwen Carr, and all of the faceless mothers like them who are still doing the work in spite of their own heartache.
What about the mothers of Tamir Rice and Jordan Edwards and Michael Brown and Sandra Bland and the child of Korryn Gaines? Has anyone checked in on Diamond Reynolds, the young woman who watched as police shot and killed Philando Castile, the love of her life, in front of her and her daughter? What about the son of Alton Sterling, who unabashedly cried for his father on the podium?
Who checked on them when the media parade left? When the marches ended? When the headlines with their loved ones names rolled off of the screen in our living rooms?
The money given by the cities cannot rectify it. The retractions by the police and authorities who first shouted they “feared for their safety,” and the media that reported it, will not suffice.
No judge, no jury will make it so. I cannot even make it so with my words or the questions I ask here. I just know that this morning, the people left behind were on my mind.
I am thinking about them just as much as the men and women who were taken from us.