No Disclaimers Necessary

Something in me broke over the last few days. Only in America can we simultaneously celebrate one step toward accountability for police brutality and take three soul-crushing steps backward with the murder of Ma’Khia Bryant, another black child dead at the hands of police. George Floyd’s life matters to a jury of our peers, but black lives still do not matter to trigger happy police with biases that over take their better judgment.

This was a hard week for mothers. Mothers of black children specifically. We learned Daunte Wright’s mother tried to comfort him while he was killed by police. Anyone with a soul should understand how devastating that moment would be. It does not matter that his mother is white, she listened to her child die and that pain is unfathomable.

It is really difficult to put into words the trauma of becoming a mother and being a mother, much less being a black mother to children. We are weighed down by our own double marginalization while also defending the humanity of our children. It makes you feel powerless, spoken over, and at the same time ignored and abandoned to the forces that pervert our femininity.

I have made several posts on social media as a way to sort through my pain and the unspeakable fear of joining the growing club of mothers with murdered black children. I have received a lot of support from mothers, white mothers, who are also amateur activists on similar anti-racism journeys.

But there was always the common disclaimer:

I stand with you in your pain, but I know I can never fully understand it.

Before I was a mother and just simply a black woman I appreciated those disclaimers from white woman. I understood “I stand with you, but I understand I am not black” as a way to honor that I cannot live as a woman without my life being colored by my blackness; and so my femininity is inherently a different experience.

For years we beat into white people, particularly white women, that they cannot share their own experiences in black spaces as an attempt to empathize because that is speaking over the uniqueness of our black pain. The purpose is to preserve black stories so that we call attention to our unique struggles and can demand the unique solutions that we deserve. For instance, access to healthcare is not only about wealth disparities, it’s about racist medical school practices. In domestic violence scenarios, calling the police is not always the solution because they may shoot the victim and the perpetrator instead of deescalate.

But something feels different as a mother. I understand why those disclaimers are given—they are the true allyship mantra—to quietly stand in solidarity.  But as a mother, those disclaimers coming from other mothers feel like the messenger is standing unnecessarily at arm’s length. And as a result, it feels even more isolating.

Maybe I am speaking from a desperate place of pain, but those disclaimers feel unnecessary because in no universe would a white mother even have a similar story. But they can and, like any good mother, do feel the gut-wrenching agony of losing a child, even if only imagined. It is a mother’s gift to imagine the worse so we can prepare for it, cradling that imagined agony at the edge of madness while seeking control that we know we ultimately do not have.

Maybe what I want is for an ally who is a mother to say that they know that sinking, gut-wrenching feeling of the possibility of losing a child. That they feel that constant paranoia of losing the control that we never had. Our triggers may be different, but I know you fear, and as a result feel, that agony that I am feeling right now… and I just need someone with that understanding to hold my hand.  No disclaimers necessary.