It is terrific to have hope because sometimes, hope is all you have. When the grand jury decision not to indict Darren Wilson for any crime connected with the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO was announced, I was sitting with my eleven-year-old son in the living room. Before the decision was announced, my son said that the officer would not get indicted because police do not get indicted for shooting unarmed black men, period.
Like most people, we followed what had been going on in Ferguson since Michael Brown was killed in August of 2014. When the verdict was announced, I immediately thought of an essay by Marcus McGhee called “An Essay on Niggers and Squirrels.” He says his grandfather told him that he saw white men go to jail for hunting squirrels out of season, but he never saw a white man go to jail for killing a black man.
As the wife of one black man and the mother of a black boy, this verdict is real to me. I live on the historic Main Line, an area of suburbs not far from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Our neighborhood is relatively free from crime and we feel safe and at ease in our mixed-race neighborhood. Whenever an incident like the death of Trayvon Martin or the death of Michael Brown happens. There is news coverage and discussions about race take place in workplaces and schools all across the country. Each time, without exception, I will be asked by my non-black friends how my husband and I will talk with our children about these issues. I always laugh and give the same response, “My children are black 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. So we talk about racial issues all the time. It is not something we save for special holiday discussions.”
Every time a police officer kills an unarmed black person race, police, and crime will be discussed all over America. Ferguson will be big news and big, weighty, and serious discussions will take place. Then one day, a few weeks from now or a few months from now, Ferguson will cease to be big news. It will cease to be big news because people will grow bored with all the talk changing nothing. It will cease to be big news because people will grow bored with telling the same stories over and over again. Or saddest, but more likely than not, Ferguson will cease to be big news because another unarmed black boy or black man will be killed by police and attention will follow the new sad story. The new unimaginable story will take all our time and attention.
As I watched the news coverage about the grand jury decision in Ferguson with my son, I held back tears. I do not know why I wanted to cry. I did not know Michael Brown. I did not have a direct connection to the events in Ferguson. What I did have is a son who is a little black boy. What I did have is a husband who is a black man at work miles and miles away from home. If an unarmed black man can be killed by police in America and suffer no punishment, what could possibly make me believe that my son and husband will always be safe?
All I have is hope. Each day as I send my son to catch the school bus, I hope he will get to school safely and return to me unharmed at the end of the day. I hope police officers do not stop my son as he walks the block from the school bus to home. Each day when I send my husband off to work, I hope he will get to work safely and return to me unharmed at the end of the day. I hope that if for some reason he is stopped, he is not shot, arrested unjustly, or harmed in any way. I hope that if my husband is stopped by police while driving to or from his destination, he is not profiled as a criminal, a threat, or a danger. I hope he comes home to me safe, secure, and unharmed.
A reality of life is that sometimes things are bad. Sometimes, things are scary. Sometimes, we do not know how to make things better. At those times, all we have is hope for the future. Be encouraged at those times, because hope is strong. Hope is powerful and hope helps us move from despair to victory. The church girl in me is reminded of the old gospel song that says that hope is built on God. When I think of that, my sadness about the situation in Ferguson and across the nation is touched. My tears are dried due to my hope for a brighter future. My hope is that my son will one day see that when a police officer shoots and kills an unarmed black man there is punishment instead of excuses. I hope for a better world, a safer world, a fairer world. But more than all that, I hope my son and my husband are protected by the police and not harmed.
Since I first wrote these words several years ago, Derrick Chauvin a former police officer was convicted of murder. He murdered a man named George Floyd that he was trying to arrest. Instead of following his duty to protect and serve, Chauvin put his knee on George Floyd’s neck for nine and a half minutes. My family and I were shocked by the verdict. We were shocked because in our experience when cops kill unarmed black men, they get paid time off and not jail sentences.
The murder conviction gave us some hope. We hope that there will be more verdicts of cops getting convicted of murder when they murder people.
In conclusion, it is terrific to have hope because sometimes, hope is all you have. So, the question for you this sensational day is, for what do you hope even when your hope seems to be insane?