Age of Understanding

Its happened again. Most of us knew it would. It is summer after all. Rare is the summer in which we dont have at least one brutal execution in the street. This time the victim is Mr. Alton Sterling and left to mourn are all the people who loved him, including his five children. Earlier today the mother of his oldest child spoke before a press conference to demand justice and share about her son's broken heart. I cant describe the pain and anger of watching yet another black woman bear this pain. The waves of emotions as I try so hard to listen, to honor her words tears at the old scars and creates a brand new one. 

This time, in effort to hold the words of this specific person, this specific family, I listened closely. I have been unable to get her words out of my head. Quinyetta said, "As a mother, I am forced to raise a son who is going to remember what happened to his father. That I can't take away from him. He is at an age of understanding." 

An age of understanding. 

He knows what it means that his father is gone. And he knows why.

Black people. We know a lot about the age of understanding in America. 

Understanding that black bodies were never intended to enjoy freedom of movement in this country. Understanding that black bodies were never intended to taste their own joy in this country. Understanding that the legacies of history- of slavery, of black codes, of jim crow- live on in insidious and fatal ways. Understanding that justice was never intended for black bodies. Understanding that entire institutional systems were created in the mire of anti-blackness. Understanding that blackness is an offense in this country. Understanding that your whole life could be altered when your black skin is all that matters. 

There comes an age when black bodies stand in the gap between America's history and America's present and cant breathe from the pressure of that space. 

We cant breathe and yet we speak back. We band together and raise our whispered voices to a shout. We gather together in public spaces both physical and virtual and shout that our lives do matter. When it is we who have long been the victims of violence are told to "remain calm" we will not. I am not calm. 

I am many things: enraged, angry, saddened, frustrated, upset. But I am not calm, and I dont have any plans to be. 

This disregard for black life is wrong. This disregard for black life is evil. This disregard for black life is rooted in white supremacy and anti-blackness and I will not be calm until both are uprooted. 

I will continue to put white supremacy and anti-blackness on the stand and declare their guilt. I dont have the power to lock them away. I dont have the power to stop this from happening again. I dont have the power to bring back Alton or Sandra or Eric or Mike or Rekia or Tamir or my own cousin. But I will write. I will speak. 

I will name the monster because I too have reached the age of understanding.

Austin Brown1 Comment