It was the last Wednesday in June, and my sons were visiting – Joshua, a recent high school graduate who was anxiously dreaming about his future; and Richard, a creative soul stomping about the planet trying to find his footing in an often inhospitable world. We spent the day together. We all grabbed coffee, headed to the gym, and then walked to the grocery store. Exhausted from the Texas heat, we retreated to our own spaces, each of us doing our own thing as the AC cooled our bodies. Later on, Richard got up and cooked us dinner. We sat and ate together and then my daughter, Ma'at stopped by.
Time passed. The sun had retreated. I came out of my room to inspect the kitchen and to light my the-kitchen-is-closed candle. But when I walked into the living room, it was dark and quiet. Well, not entirely. The TV was muted, reset to some colorful default screen. There were two blankets, some pillows tossed about, and two distinct deep breathing patterns. Ma'at had texted me earlier that she had made it home safe, and my sons had fallen asleep in the living room. I stood there looking at them and listened to their breathing. I leaned against the wall and smiled, and then almost immediately, my eyes filled with tears—all on their own. Curious at the sudden unexpected emotion, I began to inquire within myself, searching the layers until finally, my body alerted me to the source of my reaction. I was crying because my sons were with me, soundly sleeping in a pocket of safety while Jayland Walker's bullet-riddled body lay in a morgue in Akron, Ohio.
I thought of his fear and the adrenaline forcing his pace as he ran, trying to stay alive when the situation was beyond de-escalation. Shots ringing out! Ninety or so, with 46 bullets tearing into Mr. Walker's flesh. No matter how fast Mr. Walker ran, he could not outrun this nation's history of violent disregard for life, particularly Black life. I thought of the vicious loneliness he must have felt as he heard the shots releasing each bullet, the deadly force intended for him as he ran away. I stood there on a Wednesday night while my sons slept and thought of Mr. Walker's parents, family, and friends. It didn't matter to me that he attempted to evade the police; people run from law enforcement whether they are guilty or innocent. I really didn't care if he had committed a crime or not. What mattered to me was Mr. Walker was dead after an alleged traffic violation. There would be no jury of his peers, no judge, no representation, no proper conviction, or exhausted appeals. A flood of other names ran through my mind like a never-ending funeral procession, and like some psychic pallbearer, I shook with rage and grief as I carried the weight of each body within me.
From a place that felt both near and far, past and present, I could feel centuries of grief. Fathers sobbing at gravesides beneath dull gray skies. I heard pews creaking as mothers rocked back and forth, wailing, and I saw weary old folk with locked jaws weeping silently, holding firmly the hands of knowing, wide-eyed children. This grief is not only overwhelming and unrelenting; it's old, haunting even the most intimate of moments like a violent specter.
Smith, Christen A. “Facing the Dragon: Black Mothering, Sequelae, and Gendered Necropolitics in the Americas.” Transforming Anthropology 24, no. 1 (2016): 31–48. https://anthrosource.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/share/XGB9IP8TP4PKAGGBZTZ7?target=10.1111/traa.12055
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