Experiencing insomnia on 7/7/2016. Dealing with one shooting before finding out about another.
It’s kind of funny for a black woman to make such an obvious statement, but sadly, I myself didn’t acknowledge it until I was older. As a child, I grew up in a predominantly white neighborhood. Some of my best friends were (and still are) white. When it came to bullying, my torment came from the black kids in my school that consistently told me I wasn’t black enough. Even some people in my family were not excited that I fell in love and married a white man. But you see, I spent my years determined to make a name for myself, not because I was black, but because I was me. So for years I didn’t focus on color – it wasn’t important to me because this world was going to accept me for who I am. It led to some folks, even friends, not seeing color – making jokes that I was the whitest black person they knew. I never experienced the struggles that many blacks had in this country, so I couldn’t put myself in their shoes. So, I continued to do what I could to build myself up regardless of what other said.
At 40, I have two semi-successful businesses, a loving family, a roof over my head, and a supportive circle of friends. But it’s funny, still, to this day, some of my friends joke that I’m the whitest black person they know. I used to laugh it off, but I realized that it is truly offensive. I was allowing people who cared for me to feel it was okay to stereotype my race. But even then that didn’t open my eyes to my difference in this world. When did I realize that the color of my skin was going to be an issue? When I became a mother.
I produced three of the most beautiful kids. Mouthy as hell, but I love them all just the same. My oldest, William, has tested our patience time and time again with his independence, stepping up to us when he didn’t agree with something. Oh, he would get punished, but at the same time I would think to myself, “Well, this is what we taught him, to stand up for himself.” At age 14 he weighs in at 160 pounds. Needless to say, he doesn’t look like a teenage boy. It’s amazing how they grow up so fast.
On November 22, 2014, William was 12 years old, still a big boy. Similar to the size of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy playing with a toy gun in a park. That video still haunts me and I couldn’t help but see William when I watched it. That could have been my son. Up until this time, other police shootings have come to light – all of them excused because the victims were thugs or possibly had a weapon, but Tamir – that one was open and shut to me. So imagine my surprise, and many others’ in the country, when the officers who shot him weren’t prosecuted. The pain I felt from his family was unreal, because, as I mentioned before, that could have been my son.
Now, witnessing story after story of cops shooting black men and women like it’s hunting season has led me to teach my kids that when it comes to police – fear at all cost. No matter what they say to you that might be demeaning, just follow their orders, because you can’t take any chances – don’t stand up for yourself. I didn’t think my parenting would lead to this – putting the fear of the police into my kids so they feel less than. The motto of police forces across the nation is “To Protect and Serve.” Where did they lose sight of that and when did it become open season on blacks and having people saying things like, “Race doesn’t matter,” or, “You don’t know the whole story?” If Tamir Rice was my son, would my white friends who made those statements say them to me? Would they dare? I know that racism still exists in this country, but with people like Donald Trump fueling the fire, we are now seeing what we’re really dealing with, but I digress. Back to the subject at hand.
I witnessed Jesse Williams make a passionate speech after accepting a BET award, taking his time to talk about what is happening in our country. I was moved for many reasons, but one of those reasons was because my kids got to see a man, who looked just like them, speak out against the injustice, and it showed them that they could do the same thing. I then witnessed a Change.org petition surface, demanding that he be fired from the show, Grey’s Anatomy. Some saw the speech as “hate speech” against whites and cops. Political mouthpieces like Tomi Lahren and Stacey Dash felt the need to belittle the point he was trying to express, with Dash going as far as calling Williams “A Hollywood Plantation Slave.” Dash, being from a mixed race family, just brought herself to an all new low. It seemed to me that this was a case of “if it doesn’t apply to you, you shouldn’t be offended.” Lahren, at one point during her word-vomit, discredited Williams’ speech, trying to brush off what happened to Tamir Rice. It was truly the moment that I felt such disgust for this country.
Now, I sit here at 4:23 in the morning writing my thoughts, days after Williams made this amazing speech, dealing with another shooting of a black man, Alton Sterling, by cops, and once again, I hear, “It’s not always about race,” and, “He might have had a weapon.” Even though there is video footage of the incident, we still question. When will this end? When will the time come when we all treat this like an AA meeting and admit to our addiction of denial. We have a racism problem and we need treatment. We have a problem with cops shooting our children…our children, yes. See, it’s not just someone else’s kids, because the fact is, if it can happen to them, it can happen to any of us. Maybe that’s how it needs to be approached in the press for everyone to start listening. You are not immune!
I shared a post from a friend of mine that said, “If I see one ‘all lives matter’ post today I fucking swear…you can say that shit when ALL lives are treated and protected like they matter. Right now they are not.#BlackLivesMatter #AltonSterling.” Another friend commented, “She does know that he had a weapon and a history of violence specifically against cops right? I fail to see how this was about race. A cop too nervous to keep his shit together? Maybe. The stigma that felons face trying to re-enter society? Definite maybe. Not everything comes down to the color of your skin and we have to stop treating people like that is the only thing they have.” This is when I had a revelation, now, at age 40, I love my white friends, but some of them truly forget that I’m black. They will NEVER understand what it is like to be black in the United States of America and when they have these moments of “let me tell you how it is,” I need to stop them. I realize that I will have another added worry with my kids when they walk out that door. I will have to deal with the fact that even if they are highly educated, a cop, or a loan officer or a business owner may still look at them as a thug. They won’t say, “Oh they’re half white so they’re okay.” This will be an issue for the rest of their lives and I weep. I get it now and I weep.
I have so many races in my life that are part of my circle of friends – White, Black, Hispanic, Asian – but I do feel a loss when those friends question what is clearly becoming an epidemic and racism is clearly still a problem. I don’t expect for us to agree on everything, I’m glad when we don’t, it sparks great debate. Please listen to me when I say, do not come to me and try to make me “understand” why racism should not still be talked about because it is not a problem. For I will no longer be the whitest black person you know. I am Black, and I will be a consistent reminder that when you think it’s over, it’s not. You, as my friend, should be doing everything to voice your outrage so we can begin the change because there needs to be a change. Now.
Teresa Ewers is a wife, mother of three and Editor-in-Chief of New Mexico Entertainment Magazine and PRIDE & Equality Magazine and Owner of Graphicbliss