Watching the recent events surrounding George Floyd’s death feels like a recurring nightmare. Over and over, Black men die at the hands of police officers. Black men and women cannot exist without someone feeling threatened and calling the cops. Black children cannot go to the store to buy Skittles without worrying about their lives being extinguished.
This is the type of institutional racism that I’ve experienced my whole life. I’ve had police officers berate me and draw their weapons on me. I’ve had people protest my integrating their school (this was in 1978). I’ve had people follow me around stores because they thought I would steal something. Taxi drivers have refused to pick me up simply because of the color of my skin. I’ve endured many racist comments and jokes by co-workers and bosses.
I’m educated, hard-working, and law-abiding. I try to get along with everyone and build relationships with an array of people. However, none of these attributes have shielded me from the sting of racism.
I am expected to grin and bear it and go about my life. But below the surface, my anger brews. My anxiety increases. My trust in the American way diminishes. Racism weighs heavily on your spirit and crushes your soul. I’ve gone to therapy (I have a longer story about how the therapist tried to whitesplain the situation, but I’ll save that for another day). I’ve talked to pastors. I’ve tried to pray the pain away. These practices have helped me to cope, but the rage remains.
In 2014, I did an interview on our local TV station about the aftermath of Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, MO. Since then, nothing has changed. Unarmed Black people continue to die at the hands of racists.
Micheal Brown, Oscar Grant, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, Emmett Till, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and many others we’ll never know – All dead.
What scares me most is that it could happen to my sons.
I often worry about their safety and well-being. Knowing that someone could take my boys’ lives because of their race frightens me. My sons are kind, considerate, respectful, and loving. Unfortunately, some people will never get to know these characteristics because they have preconceived notions about them because of the color of their skin.
A couple of years ago, my sons’ mother called me to tell me that our oldest son, who was 14 at the time, was in police custody. My son and his best friend got into an altercation with some kids at a basketball court and one of the kids threw my son’s ball across the fence onto the roof of the neighboring school. Just as my son and his friend had climbed on the roof to retrieve the ball, a police officer drove up and apprehended them for trespassing.
I was stricken with terror as l listened to these events. I immediately prayed that no harm would come to my son and his friend. Thankfully, the situation was resolved peacefully. However, my son told me that he was petrified and hoped the officer wouldn’t kill him.
I was heartbroken that this was his immediate response. Unfortunately, it was a valid response. I’ve lived with this burden for my whole life and I hate that my sons must fear those who made an oath to serve and protect. Today, both of my sons are fearful of police officers. Once I was pulled over for a minor traffic infraction with both sons in the car. My youngest son was brought to tears because he worried that the officer would harm us. He was 10.
Yes, I’m angry, but I’m also hopeful. I think we’ve reached an inflection point in our society where racism is no longer a Black problem. It is everyone’s duty to speak out. All Americans must stand against racism, marginalization, injustice, and repression. If we want real change, we can no longer be silent. We must use our political power, our economic power, and our personal relationships to tear down this racist system and build a more perfect union.
Until then, I will hug my sons a little tighter and do my best to protect them. Black Lives Matter. And we need everyone so proclaim it and believe it!
Frederick J. Goodall, Mocha Man Style Publisher, and Editor-in-Chief
P.S. – I’ve compiled a list of books for people who want to learn more about the effects of racism. Click here to see the full list (I will update it regularly).