I'm Not From Ferguson, But What's Happening There Has Changed My Life

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453549694The parents of Michael Brown. Photo courtesy of Scott Olson/Getty Images.
I was thinking of having kids, but then Michael Brown was killed. I know that sounds melodramatic, but it’s true. If I have children, black children, then they will be in danger just because of the color of their skin. In Ferguson, an unarmed 18 year-old, just about to start his first year of college, was shot dead by a police officer. He had not committed a crime other than jaywalking — a "crime" that occurs within every town and city around the world every day.

What happened to Michael Brown is bigger than me, but it’s also affecting me. If circumstances had been different, Michael Brown could have been my child; I’m about the same age as his mother. Last year, I finally acknowledged that my biological clock was ticking and began thinking about whether I want to have children. I grew confident that I was ready to have a baby of my own, either biologically or through adoption. I’m the child of a trans-racial adoption, and I often look at the little black boys and girls on my street, wistfully wondering what my own offspring might look like.

But, it hurts me deeply to scroll through my Facebook feed and see the justifications for Brown’s death by people I know. Too much time and effort was given to trying to position the teenager, whose only crime had been crossing a street, as a psychopath-in-training, whose shooting cut short his future vocation as a serial killer. (I’m being sarcastic here.) I not only wondered about their general observations about black people, but wondered how they would treat any future children I might have. Oh, but it wasn’t just about Brown specifically, some decided that now was the time to argue that all black people have the genetic disposition to commit some mass destruction on the rest of American society. The relative ease with which they shared these hateful thoughts — especially on a medium in which they actually had black ‘friends’ — chilled me to the bone.

A couple months ago, I fell in love with the cutest little boy on the subway train. He was perhaps six months old in a stroller pushed by his mother, a young African-American woman. She smiled at me as I made funny faces and waved at her chubby child with huge brown eyes.

The baby gave me a toothless grin. Just then, a middle-aged white woman, who had been observing our interaction, looked down into the stroller and glared at the child. My cheeriness instantly turned into disbelief as I watched her top lip curl up into a sneer. Sure, she might have been mentally ill or having a bad morning, but I recognized that look of hate and fear all too clearly. From the look of hurt that immediately passed over the mother’s face, I guessed she’d also seen it before.

I remember that look directed at me when I was 11, and my white friend and I ventured onto her neighbor’s lawn to check out a yard sale. But, in that case, the look that was clearly directed at me also came with a screamed, “Get off my property!”
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I believe the killing of Brown began with that same look, an observation from a patrol car window that led to him being shot six times. Black children in America are still not free from the dangers of that look.

When black children are shot in the street, my reproductive rights as a black woman are under attack. I do not have the right to bear and raise a child who will not be institutionally and systemically discriminated against by society to the benefit of a majority of Americans. My child will not have the right to not be murdered by a police officer, or anyone else, for jaywalking or having a bag of Skittles. I am not guaranteed that my child’s memory will not be publicly maligned to avoid prosecuting his killer.

So, why am I still considering it? I’ve come to realize that if I concern myself with these jabs of hate, they — the people on my Facebook page, the woman on the lawn — would win. It’s not in my nature to concede. And, instead of shaving a few years off my life because of high blood pressure, I have to figure out what I will do if I ever witness my child getting "the look." I need to concentrate my focus on protecting my child’s safety and ensure that they will be instilled with enough self-love so that the "looks" they will most likely receive will be deflected with self-esteem. They will know that it is the person who is sending messages of hate with the problem — not them.

Over the past two weeks, Ferguson, MO has been inundated with peaceful and violent protests. Hundreds of people have been arrested as the local enforcement and the National Guard tramples over their right for freedom of assembly and freedom of speech. Demonstrators are focused on ensuring what happened to Brown, and the other African-American men who have been murdered by law enforcement, never happens again. But, no one is protesting for a black woman’s right to bear and raise a black child in North America who will not only receive the same level of respect as their non-black counterparts, but more importantly, have the right to live. Would someone mind standing up for that, too?