Tavia Mapp-Deterville

Source: Tavia Mapp-Deterville / Tavia Mapp-Deterville

It has never been easy to be Black, especially to be a Black man and I know that more now that I am raising one. I often wish white people could just trade bodies for a moment, to allow them to not only see racism from our Black vantage point, but to feel it. But this isn’t a scene from A Time To Kill and Matthew McConaughey isn’t delivered an award-worthy monologue to open-eared racists. Because seeing pictures and videos of Black bodies being pinned down to the ground until they become lifeless, has proven ineffective. They’re still killing us.

After the death of Trayvon Martin, I noticed some parents who removed hoodies from their son’s wardrobe. I’ve listened to men advise their sons not to reach for anything in the presence of a police officer or make any sudden movement that could be seen as “threatening.” I wondered what to tell my son. See he is five-years-old and on the autism spectrum. He makes eye contact but not all the time. There are moments when he is aggressive and others when he is carefree. He can be oblivious to his surroundings and headstrong. I pray everyday for him because when I look at him I remember how most police officers are not equipped to deal with people of color, let alone ones with special needs. Amadou Diablo simply reached for his wallet. Trayvon was just picking up a snack from the local convenience store. Eric Garner was allegedly sell some loose cigarettes and yet pleading for his, went in vain.

The lists of things black men can do safely grows shorter by the killing. No matter what we do, whether we are in a suit or in a hoodie — we fit the profile. Until Black men can live in a world where the police can’t take your life if they feel threatened, what do you tell your sons? How do you explain to the innocent little boy staring back at you that his shear presence causes fear and intimidation? And that white words hold more weight in the pursuit of justice. Everyone seems to understand fear until the person who is scared is Black.

As people in different cities take to the streets to protest against racial injustice, I find myself wondering what happens next? Right now, we don’t know. What I do know is change needs to come. Whether it’s in the form of voting or it starts with a conviction of all four police officers, something says this time we won’t just move on.


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