On June 16, 2017, the murderer who took Philando Castile’s life was found blameless by the American justice system. The murderer who was video recorded giving Philando Castille an instruction, then shooting at him seven times, 5 hitting him, in front of his girlfriend and 4 year-old child, when he attempted to comply. The, now exposed, fact there is nothing we as Black people can do to prevent this from happening again is how “they” show they can push us down. The, now confirmed, fact there is nothing the justice system will do to deter them is how they spit in our face afterwards.
So I want to be clear that my next words are written from a place of anger, pain, rage, disgust, fear, and vengeance.
On this past Mother’s Day weekend, I was pulled over for speeding. Yes, I was in fact speeding. The officer was a very kind older Black man. He asked me was something wrong or was there an emergency going on. He practically insisted I give him a reasonable excuse for why I was going almost 20 miles over the speed limit (I just wasn’t paying attention to my speed). It was a pretty standard traffic stop, I gave him my documents and he said he would be right back. Then, the most unexpected thing happened. My 3 year old son, who was sitting quietly in the back seat, spoke. “Is that a police man?” he asked. To which I replied yes. “Is he going to shoot you?” My immediate response was, no. My son proceeded to insist that is what policemen do. “They shoot people,” he said. When the officer returned and gave me my ticket, I explained to him what had just occurred and asked if he could come around and speak to my son. He spoke kindly to him and reassured my son he would never shoot me and he is here to help. This is what I want my 3 year old to believe, that if he is lost, or someone is trying to hurt him, the police will help.
But as a mother raising a Black man, I have to eventually prepare my son for death. I will to teach my son right from wrong and help guide him to make the choice of right. I will feed his mind so that he desires to grow intellectually and pursue higher education. I will encourage any desire he has to be an entrepreneur at any age, because he needs to be able to provide for himself. I will show him the importance of family and instill in him that if you have a child, you better be the biggest part of his/her life. Be present. I will teach him the rules and laws of the land and why following them is very important.
I will also explain to him none of this will help keep him alive. I will have to explain to my son that even when you are in the right, the person who is supposed to ‘serve and protect’ your rights can choose to kill you, like Michael Brown. Even if you graduate high school and make the transition from minor hood to adulthood, you may not make it to your college orientation, like Trayvon Martin. I will have to explain to him that even if you’re scared and you want to run away, there is nowhere to run, like Walter Scott. I will have to explain that there will be no toy guns in or outside of the house because someone may not be able to tell the difference, like Tamir Rice. I will explain to him that if he has a sister who suffers from any mental illness like mommy, someone may not understand and she may never get a chance to get the help she needs, like Tanisha Anderson. And I will have to explain to my son that even if you follow the law of the land, and stated that you are doing so, the law man will still end your life, like Philando Castile. I will explain that no matter how much he loves his child, the police will be so entrenched with racially biased stereotypes that they will think you are more willing to commit a crime than want to keep your child safe in the car with you. They will believe you are more likely to make a violent attempt to kill them if given the chance, than to make a sincere effort to keep anyone from being injured. They will value your child’s life so little as to fire into your car that has your child in it. I will explain that his life can be ended without cause at the hands of the police, and there is no amount of right he can be in to stop that.
I know I am supposed to give you the Gospel now. In my heart I know and believe it to be the only thing that will save my son. The only way to explain why he should not live for this world anyways. I know that Jesus is where our hope has to be. But how do I explain to him that as true as the Gospel is, there will be people who use a distorted version to mock him. Or worse, to justify seeing him as inferior. How do I explain people who preach God’s word but ignore the injustices being suffered among God’s people? Do they not see us as God’s people? We all need the Gospel, but it seems lately those giving it are the ones who need it most.
Janai Smith can be found on social media at: