My little one, 8 years old, often feels unheard. He’s a little person, half the size of others in the house. After explaining the horror of George Floyd’s murder, I tried to explain the reaction, the protests happening around the country. I asked him to remember a time where he felt unheard, which I know he feels often. He has few rights and privileges — he can’t cook, can’t watch TV without permission, gets pushed around physically and psychologically. We constantly talk over him.
I asked him what is his first reaction to that truth, the truth that he is not being heard, and he said to (try) say calmly for people to listen to his words. And when that doesn’t work? “I scream and yell,” he said. What about when that doesn’t work, when we still do not hear him? What does he do when that doesn’t work? It took him a moment, as he felt me out about where this is going, but then, “I want to throw things, to break stuff, to slam doors.” Sometimes, he does. I asked him why he does that. “Because I am so angry at not being heard, and maybe if I throw something or cause a whole lot of ruckus, you will listen.”
“What does mommy do in these moments?” You yell, you scream, and you tell me that I need to “get it together,” get in control of his emotions. I send him away until he can, until he comes whimpering back asking me if he can come back and be with the rest of us. But I don’t address his initial issue. I blame him for being upset.
Police officers keep killing black people — KEEP KILLING US — and we once said calmly to stop. We made ourselves respectable. We got college degrees, got ourselves elected to office. But they kept killing us. So we yelled and screamed, and we keep yelling and screaming to be heard. And then we aren’t being heard, still nothing is being done, they are still killing us, and so we have to take it to the next level. We need to burn the whole thing down. To be heard.
But then they claim that our reaction is our fault. The wronged, the victims, the oppressed, they blame us for being too emotional about being killed, blame us for damaging property. So-called white liberals condemn the destruction of property but never recognize that the property was built from our uncompensated labor. They say that they “support our cause” but in the same breath bemoan a broken window or a broken door more than us being murdered by the state. They claim that had we just been calm, had we just asked nicely, they would hear us, they would stop killing us. But we know the evidence points completely in the other direction.
They treat us, black people being hunted, like we are 8 year olds having a tantrum. And they will try to wait us out, punishing us until they hope we will come whimpering back, asking to be let back into a politic we have never been a part of. So there cannot be any letting up, no standing down. We are not children. This is the fire this time.