A Letter to my Grandchildren

Amerra, King, Audrena, and all of my future descendants,

I’m chuckling to myself as I type this but the year is 2020 and it is the year of the Pandemic. There is much to unpack here and many things that I need you to know and understand how I feel about what is happening in the world now. I’ve been writing out my thoughts in my bi-weekly blog every month to document for my future ancestors and trying to tie stuff into travel however I could but this week I just need to talk about our world.

Two weeks ago (I cannot BELIEVE that it has only been two weeks. Damn!) I told you that (mostly) White people went to the state capitals fully armed demanding that the quarantine be lifted and that they are allowed to return to “normal”. Their demands were met almost immediately, there was no bloodshed. I talked in the blog post titled, Okay, Now What? about how nothing had changed about the virus (the REASON for the lockdown) and what I left unsaid was that the virus was disproportionately affecting Black people. We were the ones dying and that definitely wasn’t more important than going to the bars to most White people.

Okay, now let’s discuss current events. On February 23, 2020, Ahmaud Marquez Arbery, an unarmed 25-year-old African-American man, was murdered in Glynn County, Georgia, while jogging. Ahmaud had been pursued and confronted by two racist white men who were armed and driving a pickup truck. The murder was recorded on video by a third white man who was following Arbery in a second vehicle. It took 74 days, viral video, and #runwithmaud hashtags, and social activism, and pleading and demanding and threatening in order to get an arrest (not a conviction).

On March 13, 2020, Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman, was murdered by Louisville Metro Police officers. The Police entered her apartment in plainclothes in Louisville, Kentucky, while serving a “no-knock warrant”. Kenneth Walker (her fiancee) tried to protect their home against the invasion of people that he did not know and that did not identify themselves. Taylor was shot eight times. The LMPD investigation centered on two people who were already in police custody and suspected of selling controlled substances from a drug house more than 10 miles away. Kenneth Walker initially faced criminal charges of first-degree assault and attempted murder of a police officer. No other arrests have been made as of yet.

On May 29th the Police Chief in Louisville promised the body cameras the police were equipped with would be mandatory amidst protests and demands of justice for Breonna. June 1st the Police Chief was fired after the body cams were deactivated during the fatal shooting of Black business owner, David McAtee, not 72 hours later. Nothing to see here, folks.

And the murder that has outraged the entire world is George Floyd. On May 25, 2020, George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, died in Minneapolis, Minnesota after a white police officer, knelt on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes while Floyd was handcuffed face down in the street. Two other officers further restrained Floyd and a fourth officer prevented onlookers from intervening. During the final three minutes, Floyd was motionless and had no pulse. Officers made no attempt to revive him, and the officer’s knee remained on Floyd’s neck even as emergency medical technicians attempted to treat him. This murder has caused protests all over the entire world. It has also sparked riots and looting, but I will get into that briefly in a minute. For now, let’s discuss the revolution.

I’m calling it a revolution because after the video of Mr. Floyd being executed by a police officer in broad daylight surrounded by witnesses pleading for his life White people have finally joined the cause. Grandchildren, please understand that I mean no disrespect when I say that, I’m actually very happy and grateful that people are realizing that racism and privilege exist in many forms. I have to be honest, I wonder that they didn’t feel this outrage when 12-year-old Tamir Rice was executed within 3 SECONDS of police contact. Or when 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was hunted and murdered carrying a bag of Skittles and a tea in his gated community. I wonder why Sandra Bland, Oscar Grant, Freddie Gray, John Crawford, Michael Brown, Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, Sean Bell, Amadou Diallo, Tatiana Jefferson, Terence Crutcher, Akai Gurley, Walter Scott, and so many other Black people being murdered didn’t invoke the same outrage. Eric Garner literally died on video saying the exact same thing as Mr. Floyd, “I Can’t Breathe”. To honor Mr. Floyd I can recycle Mr. Garner’s shirt and hashtag.

I am surprised by the people that have reached out to me for understanding. I’m happy that people are taking the time and effort to educate themselves. They have a lot of catching up to do as they have been able to turn a colorblind eye to the devastation, humiliation, and challenges the Black community has faced for years. One day soon I will tell you some of the stories that my grandparents shared with us. Right now I just want to share a bit of what I have faced over the past 10-15 years, I’ll make it brief but there are a few things burned into my brain that I need to release to you.

I always thought of San Diego, California as a place of diversity. As an adult, I realized just how wrong I was about my hometown. I realized that almost none of the Black people I know are able to afford to own a home there and if they can it’s usually a legacy home that is in the “hood”. Of course, there are exceptions but that is what drove us to Avon, Indiana. When I tell you that I cried moving there. The huge confederate flags on pick-up trucks, being called “girl”, being physically threatened by White men at my place of employment, I won’t even get into the micro-aggressions. A few things stick out to me. We moved there labor day weekend and the schools had already been in session about 2 weeks in Avon. Children start school a year earlier in California than in Indiana so Little Frank was going into 3rd grade but was the same age as the 2nd graders. His teacher was adamant that he wasn’t smart or mature enough to be in her class. I immediately had his IQ privately tested and had him evaluated for reading and math and he scored ABOVE 3rd grade on every test he took. The meeting with the principal was uncomfortable and frustrating. I removed him from that school. He prospered in school after that. I’m sure other little Black boys in that school, or even classroom, were not lucky enough to have parents that had the time and resources to challenge the racism. Another time that sticks out to me is there was a Walmart across the street from my job. I was a Manager at a car dealership. When I took my company credit card to purchase items at Walmart for events that I was hosting they would refuse to allow me to use the card. When I sent my subordinate (who was white) to make the same purchase using the same cashier in the same store she would have no problems. I did this a few times. I spoke with management and they assured me it had nothing to do with racism. I spoke with the GM and CFO of our dealership and they also assured me that I was overreacting. It was completely normal for this to consistently happen to me and for me to have my subordinates complete tasks for me so that I wouldn’t be profiled. All the while I’m talking to my White “friends” and telling them how I’m being treated and they don’t understand or believe me. Slavery has been over 400 years, right?

Now back to the people marching and protesting in the streets begging for reforms and legislation and for unarmed Black men to be able to jog, to birdwatch in the park in NYC (there is SO MUCH going on right now, I don’t have time for this story), or just to breathe, there is also looting and rioting and violence. I hate that part but I’m also a student of history so I know that it is a part of the process of change. Change is violent. And then there are the White people that haven’t joined the revolution. Although I have no idea how you can still be privileged enough not to understand Black Lives Matter or that the police response to the protestors is the entire REASON for the protests.

You’ve got the most ignorant man I’ve ever heard in charge of the nation and his solution to Black people asking not to be murdered is to enact the Insurrection act of 1807 and threaten the citizens with military occupation. Of course, the NRA and people that were so concerned with their rights are nowhere to be found on this issue. It’s okay for the military to occupy the looters and rioters, they don’t have guns, that’s their fault. And if they DID have guns then they would deserve whatever they got for not respecting authority.

Yep, you heard me right. So let’s just recap. Armed white men storm capitals, get what they want. Unarmed protestors march in the streets asking for justice and they get rubber pellets and tear gas. Yep, this is America. The most incompetent president in the history of the United States of America continues to throw fire on an already burning house. White people use looters as reasons not to support the movement. We have a day of reflection on June 2nd and my Facebook timeline is filled with hatred and ignorance. I’m not in the least bit surprised. I honestly dealt with some form of racism, misogyny, or bigotry every single day that I worked in Avon, Indiana. Even when I had a Black General Manager (which RARELY happens in the car industry). The way they berated that Black man was terrible. Absolutely no one was ashamed to blatantly tell you that he was only in his position because of affirmative action. There was no way that he could’ve earned his way into the position, that’s crazy.

Now I’m faced with a choice. I’ve been angry for a long time. I have an opportunity to focus my anger on solutions. I haven’t had to explain why #BlackLivesMatter or check any #AllLivesMatter people because, well for one I’m too freaking tired and for two, the White people ain’t having it. Drew Brees tried to change the conversation and make it about the flag and they stopped that nonsense fast. In case you don’t know, once White people get together and make up their minds that something needs to change, things start to happen. So I WELCOME our new allies and here is where I start to wrap this thing up.

We need legislation. We need to vote. We need new leadership. We need to remain active and engaged. It’s okay for everyone to have a lane. The question that I’ve heard asked most often is, “how can I support Black businesses”. This thrills me to no end and it’s also the weirdest thing ever in life! For one, we are ALWAYS called racist and have to defend ourselves for needing a “Black” anything. Why do you need a Black Cruise group? Why do you need Black Entertainment television? Why is there affirmative action? Why do we have to see color? We have created safe spaces for ourselves and we aren’t used to having White allies in these numbers. We are leery about inviting White people into our safe spaces, especially in the days of internet trolls and cointelpro. So there is also a need for a directory or group where we can share our services freely with people of all colors. If you own a business or you provide a service, leave a comment and let us know, we’ve created a Facebook group called Black Business Supporters Directory and we would like to create files and information for people seeking the services of Black people in their community. A lot of our businesses are on-line so we don’t need to limit ourselves to one area.

The world is changing. I pray that when my grandchildren inherit this earth it is a better place than when we took over it. I love my grandchildren, even those not yet born. I want them to be safe in a country that our family has always served. I want them to be proud of me like I am proud of my ancestors. I want them to know that I marched for Trayvon, Mike Brown, and Eric Garner. I want them to know that even though I’m angry, I’m still looking for solutions and I still remain optimistic in a better future. I believe that with a LOT of hard work, things will continue to change. I think it will be bloody, but most fights are and the fight for justice and equality will be no different. I honestly could’ve slammed every racist in Avon by putting names and faces to the screenshots of these people but in the end, I hope to change hearts and minds and I know that isn’t productive towards my end goal. I won’t even start on the people that are silent as the grave or just wish this would “all go away”. I’m focused on what matters.

My bonus mom always used to say, “I don’t hate anybody more than I love my children” and I have tried to live my life with those words in mind. That’s why as angry as I am and as tired as I am and as much as I want to scream that it’s not my responsibility to teach people how to educate themselves or be decent human beings, I won’t. It IS my responsibility because I don’t want Amerra to have to go to work with their grandkids and deal with the same things that I have had to deal with. It is my responsibility to leave King and Audrena a better world. It is my responsibility to bear the weight and the burdens of the current events for the grandchildren that I don’t know yet. When my descendants pray to me for strength, I must be able to give it to them, therefore I must exercise and flex all of my muscles to be strong enough.

Okay, this letter is long enough. I’ll be back in 2 weeks if the world is still here!