Last week, I woke to another morning that started with joy but quickly shifted to pain when I saw another Black body, another Black soul slain at the hands of people who were supposed to protect them, flashed across the news channels and swaddled in a blanket of yet another breaking news story. Today it was Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and that beautiful Black body was Walter Wallace, a man suffering from a mental health crisis whose mother, a Black mother, reached out for help to save her son without knowing it would result in his death. Wallace was killed by the police, who arrived after his mother called for an ambulance to help protect and save her son. This would have been another preventable tragedy if society stopped viewing Blackness as a threat.
As a Black mother of a Black child, my stomach aches every day I turn on the news and see images of a beautifully melanin-toned adult or child flashed across the news. My heart aches as I vicariously am connected to the trauma of each Black mother bellowing painfully. Their cries haunt me, they anger me, they incite my ancestral roots that make me want to fight and shout out for justice, although I have learned that my country refuses to listen. My ability to keep up with different hashtags and Black movements waxes and wanes with social media trends, but as a Black mother my perpetual fear for my Black child never ceases.
Seventeen months ago, I received the best blessing of my life, a beautiful baby boy. Waiting until my 40s to experience motherhood was intentional, but truthfully an emotional experience as a Black woman living in America. As much as I celebrated his development from beginning to birth, I remember also watching countless news stories about the senseless deaths of Black bodies. I remember watching these stories and massaging my belly, speaking to my unborn son, letting him know that his mama would always protect him. I remember crying because I knew that no matter how hard I fought to protect him from the cruel beast of anti-Blackness, he would still have to experience it. I was afraid that one day, someone might interpret his age-appropriate curiosity as a “threat” simply because he is Black. This is an unspoken fear that no mother should have to face.
Prior to becoming the president of the National Organization for Women, I spent the last 18 years working as a mental health therapist focusing on PTSD and other trauma. The primary indicator for post-traumatic stress is that the person has lived or witnessed a perceived threat. This threat becomes so intrusive that it interferes with a person’s daily life from their waking to sleeping hours; imagine that fear. Now consider the life of a Black person who must exist in a society of daily anti-Black aggressions. Imagine these Black mothers.
Imagine the remarkable destinies that could have been fulfilled if race and hate didn’t trickle down from the White House to our stalled Senate, conservative-leaning Supreme Court, and all the way down to our local governments that fund police departments lacking accountability in racially biased over-policing of BIPOC and marginalized communities, including disabled people.
Imagine how thankful Black mothers would be to celebrate their children’s greatness, watch them thrive in free agency with confidence—not restrictions due to anti-Blackness. Black mothers want their children to live, they want their children to grow old and have families and develop legacies filled with joy, happiness, and prosperity.
Black mothers are tired of crying in agony and are tired of defending the value of our loved ones to white supremacists disguised in suits, uniforms, and judicial robes. We are tired of just being a trending hashtag and not your constant thought. But as Black mothers always do, we will continue to fight, organize, write, and strategize until our Black children are safe, until anti-Blackness no longer has viability. We will continue to be Black mothers.