By: Kalilah Belding
With a heavy head, I climb the stairs towards my bedroom. My place of respite and peace in the world. Not because of the way it is furnished but simply because it is mine. Ours. I enter the bedroom through the bathroom not really knowing why I took the less direct route. It doesn’t matter if I was trying to be coy or indirect. The moment my husband looks up at my face he can see the darkness of despair that shadows my usual upbeat countenance. “Baby, what is it?” I choose to fall into his arms first to receive the comfort I sorely need. Without skipping a beat, he pulls me closer and I sob into his chest. Some of my tears landing on his newly received police badge.
I shake with the tears and then calmly tell him that the police officers that shot Tamir Rice were acquitted. I feel him tighten a bit. Of course my mind races. What is he feeling? Is my white husband thinking about the acquittal and wondering what went wrong? How could they have let the officers go for this crime against a child? Does he understand the root of my despair? Does he feel the fear for our sons like I do?
But the questions go unanswered as he pulls me closer and whispers in my ear. The comfort he provides is immeasurable and the safe avenue I need as I find myself spewing the jumble of thoughts bubbling at the surface. Why? How is this justice? How many times can I be reminded that the black body doesn’t hold the same weight as its white counterparts?
The real fear I have for my younger brother, 26, black, heavy set male who routinely walks to his friend’s house with his hoodie on. My brother who is a gentle giant, a loving uncle, a soft spoken, thoughtful man. A man whose mere makeup has been the fodder for the bump in the night tales, the lies that have stuck to the black body somehow justifying its destruction?
The daily ritual of reassuring and reaffirming for myself of my blackness and its legitimacy. To be comfortable in my own skin and love freely without being seen as a traitor to my race or one who is uppity; forgetting her place or where she has come from. To be seen as the intelligent woman who is not the stereotype of the black woman but just myself in my black body. Speaking for no one but myself and yet always that I must be willing to stand up and defend the black body, the black soul and black consciousness because all too often I am the only black body in the room.
Suddenly, the stage I am thrust upon in which I must explain the thoughts I have personally formed, has also become the cage in which I am dissected and labeled and justified away. And there in our bedroom I’m screaming at him! At my husband, my soul mate, my children’s father! I’m using the buzz words, the rhetoric. It’s “us” and “we” and at the end of the finger jabs in the air is the “you” and “them”. And in my heart I know he didn’t put me on that stage.
He didn’t ask me to defend or represent the black population. He holds me tenderly and tells me that I am not thought of in those negative, backlashing, decimating ways so many black women are held to. I hear him, my heart hears him. But my husband’s voice is muted too often by the standard of the world. It is muted by family members that believe me being proud and protective of my blackness must mean that I oppose and want to see whites burn.
Sometimes it is muted by my own inner rage screaming “Pick a side!” Pick a flipping side and stop telling me what the law says or reconcile in your heart why this isn’t a racial issue. Yes, some of these issues are gray and there are things that will forever be unknown to the public. But there are some clear cut cases where I just want him to be as outraged as I am. To feel incredulous that the system could fail so hard and so often the black body that he has come to love and cherish as his own.
There are times I feel I could look right through him wondering where his spine has gone and wondering if he is playing neutral to keep me at bay. Let’s not be neutral. Let’s flush out all instances of unseemly behavior. Let’s shine light in every dark crevice, so that all who hide behind pillars of good while perpetuating evil can be revealed for the monsters they are.
Let’s have a real and frank discussion on how far we have come in terms of race and how far we have to go. Let’s talk about why talking about race makes us uncomfortable and nervous. Let’s talk about the many facets and pockets of white privilege that have been unearthed. Let’s talk about the subconscious stereotypes and barriers that cause irreparable harm.
When I see him go to neutral I remind him how important dialogue is and how we must talk about what is uncomfortable and controversial to flush out the lies! Lies that were told that stuck to the black body. Lies that caused our men to be hanged and our women to be raped. Blacks were not the only recipients of this brand of hate.
Our Native Americans, Hispanic and Chinese brothers and sisters to name a very few also reaped harvest of weeping and gnashing of teeth at the hands of stylized racial hate. Our duty to each other and our children is to talk so we can teach them. Teach them to be proud of their heritage and not have their being be reduced to what side they claim. To be an embodiment of love that is both half black and half white and beautiful in its entirety.
I see the worry in his eyes. I look at my husband. Standing tall and proud in his newly received uniform. I think back at all the hard work it took for us to get here. His achievement is as much mine. Yes, he went to work by day as an Army Staff Sargent and at night as a student in the law enforcement academy. He wrote every paper, every essay and passed every test to graduate with the esteem of colleagues in the classroom and community alike. My role was to play double duty to our older son and to hold down the household in every way imaginable.
I encourage him on days he didn’t think he could make it through and bit my tongue when I felt like complaining. I did this all for the greater good for our family. Yes, when my husband became a police officer my pride was palpable and my gratitude to God immeasurable. Because I knew that he would hold the responsibilities of the badge to the highest standard he could. I knew that I could trust him to act fairly with every member of the community. I know he is one of the good ones.
Yet every time another black body falls, my soul demands answers. I want a full account of what happened so I can determine whether justice was served. I have learned that the media is not my friend and not in my corner. I have learned that white men can be loners, misunderstood quiet souls who just want to preserve the American way. But black men and women will be thugs or prostitutes who are unruly, with drug addled pasts or neglectful parents and that we can die at any time under even the most routine circumstances. The way we are labeled is a direct connection to how we somehow deserved to die.
And there I go again. “We.” I feel strongly for my black brothers and sisters. But my heart ached for Officer Garrett Swasey who died in that senseless slaughter at Planned Parenthood. I thought of the Swasey Family in particular his children. I think of him acting in the moment, running to lend any assistance in preserving life. Being honorable and serving his community. Not the white community or the black community but the community in which all races and walks of life live together.
I know that it isn’t lost on him the true concerns our sons will have to face. An unjust inheritance based off their mother’s genetic makeup. I know that a very real fear he carries is being in the same unfortunate circumstances as those police officers. Where in a moment a decision can be made that changes the fabric of your life forever. Where it won’t matter who he is and what he stands for because the media will look for the big headlines and the sensational conclusions that cause people to talk around the office but not act in moral consciousness when unseen by peers.
I step closer to him and he immediately fills the space and my heart soars. Black or white, male or female our bond is in love. It is love that conquers all. I know that he is intricately written on my soul’s tale and that I am written on his. We murmur reassurances to each other, basking in the sweet glow of one another’s love before he kisses me goodbye and heads off to the night shift. My heart continues to ache for Tamir and for the others stolen before their time. My heart also hopes. As there are officers like my husband ready to serve their community then justice will prevail.