By Bonita Reid Gardner
June 16, 2020
Of course all lives matter. The height of humanity, of all religious belief recognizes this to be true. The Black Lives Matter movement is not a movement to deny this ideal, but to realize it. As a black woman, with black sons, I join with voices across the globe to emphasize that this is not our reality.
My children must learn the reality that they are not considered as smart as others, that they will be viewed with suspicion, and that they will evoke discomfort from the time they are young children. My gentle son who likened humidity at the age of seven to being wrapped in a warm blanket would be laughingly told that same year by a classmate that he could have been that other child’s slave. Another classmate would ask him why blacks attend “their” school. As if this relatively recent immigrant had greater rights than my child whose ancestors helped build this country. And in response to these incidents, the principal would suggest to me that I look into social groups to help build my son’s self-esteem, as if the problem was ours to fix. Because to put the responsibility on them to examine and confront themselves might make those other families uncomfortable.
In college, at the University of Miami, this same son would black out from dehydration while riding his bike and awake to eight police officers surrounding him. They would spread eagle and search him. Despite finding nothing but a student id, not one would apologize. No one would ask if he was okay. They didn’t see my sensitive, bright son who in high school refused to accept payment for tutoring middle schoolers in math. All they saw was a thug. So, yes, those words from our supposed leader sting.
I worked two jobs to put myself through college and law school. I worked as a law clerk for a federal appellate court judge. I worked as a federal prosecutor and a law professor. My husband worked through poverty to attend Harvard Business School. But at the end of many days, we are met with patronization and hostility. I once rode alone on an airplane from Michigan to Jacksonville seated across from a man who stared at me for the entire flight, gritting his teeth and murmuring to his partner, “I hate her”.
And before there is any temptation to “tsk, tsk” these incidents away, know that they are but a few examples. Try to put yourselves in my shoes. Don’t view me as an other with whom you can’t relate. Imagine your elementary school-aged child being asked whether she has a tail. Imagine the accumulated hurt, fear and frustration. And imagine that you might even feel anger.
This movement is long overdue. Many of us are very tired, as well as angry. But I am deeply faithful and believe with all my heart that we are held by a God who loves us beyond our imagination. And Who is patient with us. Who will heal us, if we let Him. But the road to recovery means everybody has to share the discomfort that has been borne by people like me for far too long.