"Why do we need cops? If they're not using guns for emergencies, they're just using them to kill black people," my 7-year old daughter says. "I don't know why we need them."
I nod my head, amazed that my child grasps something that most adults won't even begin to dissect. I think we need to dissect it, though. I'm a black mother of two mixed children. While I believe that their lighter skin may afford them more privilege than me and my darker skin, I've already witnessed them be treated differently than their white peers because of their color.
I had this idea that if I took my children to the local police department and introduced them to some police officers, it would help them learn to trust the police. That it would calm my nerves around cops being trigger happy.
But I changed my mind.
I realized that I don't need my children to trust the police. It's not that my children won't respect police officers. They should, and I teach them that as well. There is a person beneath the uniform, even as children, they get that.
I believe what my children will eventually understand is that the structure that protects those police who engage in brutality, knee-jerk responses, racist thinking, needs to be dismantled in order for them to live safely.
I am raising children to be pro-black in a country that proclaims we are all equal while still denying so much to people of color. America isn't pro-black. In fact, more often than not, America is anti-black. I'm trying to teach my children that there is so much strength and power in their freckled brown skin.
One way we embrace our blackness is by diving into the myths around police. Too long the belief has been that those who wear a badge and carry a gun are protecting all of us. The belief has been that it is rare for their to be corruption within the structure. We've been convinced that all police are here to make sure we drive safely and get rid of the bad guys.
But every day, I see in my mind the mothers who have lost children to police brutality. It plays over and over. I can't shake it. It's a part of me. I want better for them, for their own, for my own. To be black in America is to be in a constant battle. We have to will ourselves to carry on, despite tragedy after tragedy.
The list of things I have to tell my children to be aware of is growing.
We can't put our hoodies up, because someone might be afraid of us and kill us.
We can't sell CD's outside of a store, we might get killed for that.
We must make sure we drive perfectly every time, because if we get pulled over—if we attempt to use our rights—those rights (even our lives) might get taken away.
I am getting so tired of conversations that gloss over the fact that we need change. We need justice.
My children, our children, deserve better. They deserve what was written about America to be true. They deserve to be equals, to live freely. They deserve freedom. Not a freedom that comes with a list of special rules and regulations just for them. Not a freedom that keeps them from playing in parks or walking around on their own. My beautiful, kind, generous children should have a freedom that comes with little fear, with a lot of joy and with confidence.
That is what I want for them.
This is why we have conversations about who the police are, how they benefit us and what needs to change.
We—me, my kids—don't need to change. We've always tried to live within the rules handed out to us. But enough. We want to be black—we love being black—and we want to live proudly in that.
In order for that to happen, though, the police have got to change. The system has got to be restructured.
Until then, my family and I will continue to work on creating a country that supports us rather than fears us.