As a form of self-care, I tend to avoid spending too much time on social media during moments where America is literally on fire with rage and videos of yet another Black person’s death have become must-see television. However, when a clip of George Floyd calling for his mother as he lay dying in the street came across my feed, I made the mistake of watching it. He was killed by a police officer who knelt on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, and again, we had a hashtag. Again, we became exhausted at having to explain to the world why we deserve to simply breathe. But as I watched, the clip triggered a fear-filled truth in me that I deny daily: I’m scared to be a mother.
Now I know you’re thinking, Oh, girl, everyone is scared to become a parent, but it’s deeper than that. As a Black woman with a desire to have a family, I have always been terrified to actually create a Black life. Long before George Floyd’s death rocked the nation and sparked mass protests from coast to coast, my thoughts of maternity photos, baby showers, and kissing chubby toes have been overshadowed by the fear of bringing a child into a world that doesn’t want it and would cut its innocent life short for something as simple as jogging or looking through a window.
For years, I’ve watched as my white friends get to relish in the joys of pregnancy, fearlessly planning for their children’s playdates and college graduations. Yet simultaneously, I’ve watched the Black mothers around me go through the same moments, trying to indulge in joy even when they are equally filled with sadness and terror. And that’s only if they don’t become one of the Black women who are 243 percent more likely than white women to die of pregnancy or childbirth-related causes.
At one point, I tried to convince myself that if I didn’t have a boy (as if I could realistically control this), I would feel better about boarding the motherhood train. Then I realized that the hashtags aren’t only populated with men’s names. Boy, girl, it doesn’t matter. America doesn’t like Black people, period. Sandra Bland and Breonna Taylor didn’t matter any more to those officers than Michael Brown and George Floyd did. In fact, those women mattered less in terms of public coverage, and their killers still roam free. And Black transgender people, like Riah Milton and Dominique “Rem’Mie” Fells, who were 2 of at least 14 transgender or gender non-conforming Black people killed so far this year? Well, they end up not mattering at all. How could I honestly allow myself to be a mother in the face of this devastating reality?
From womb to adulthood, Black women are in constant fear over their children’s lives. How many white women do you know clutch their growing bellies in concern and prayer every time an unarmed man is shot in the back? How many white mothers do you know who are scared for their children to play near their homes because a fun moment of throwing snowballs and playing with a toy pellet gun with friends can turn their innocent 12-year-old into a victim? How many white mothers do you know who carry the haunting words of George Floyd crying out for his mother as a death song in their heart? Chances are the answer is none.
When BabyNames.com recently updated their homepage to show the names of all the Black men and women who were murdered by law enforcement, they wrote, “Each one of these names was somebody’s baby.” When I saw that, I burst into uncontrollable tears at the thought of my own baby’s name being on that list in 20 years. Because if the number one job of a mother is to guide and protect our children, how could I call myself a good mother if I bring a life into this world knowing that I can’t, in fact, protect it? Knowing that I am willingly sending my son into the world with a target on his back and subjecting my daughter to a life where she will either be killed while sleeping in her own home like Aiyana Stanley-Jones or become a traumatized witness to her brother, father, uncle, cousin, boyfriend, or husband’s murder in the car seat next to her? I often wonder if white women sit in silence asking themselves these questions too.
I’ve tried asking my Black friends with kids how they’ve been dealing with the world we’re in and what they think they can do to protect their babies. They have no idea. All discussions lead to the same place—prayer. Because the reality is, despite what some white people may believe, “acting right,” being educated, getting a “good job,” and coming from a “good family” doesn’t afford us the same privilege and safety it does them. Just ask Christian Cooper, a Harvard graduate, who had the cops called on him by a white woman as he was bird watching in Central Park. His education and clean-cut appearance didn’t stop Amy Cooper from seeing him as a threat to her safety. So, prayer, yeah, that’s all we got.
As my dad’s only child, I would love to give him a grandchild to spoil just like he did with me, but I lose nerve cells every time he takes his hour-long drive to work because I know some cop could see my sweet, harmless father (seriously, he doesn’t even curse) as a threat. I don’t know if I can handle worrying about a child on top of that. Where is there room in my life to worry about a child when I’m also worrying about my cousin, a proud police officer? Every time he steps out of the thin veil of protection his uniform provides, he reverts back to being a Black man first, an automatic threat. His wife and mother could possibly endure the same pain I carry for a child I haven’t even created yet. This is the America I fear bringing my unborn child into.
As I write this piece, putting my innermost thoughts on the screen for the first time, I’m saying out loud to the world things I’ve never dared to speak. My eyes are filled with tears. Because even though I long for a mini-me I can introduce to the hilarity of The Golden Girls and teach all my grandpa’s bread recipes, I know that the guaranteed way to save another beautiful Black life from becoming a horrifying statistic is not to have one. Perhaps the responsible thing to do is to keep them in the only place in this world that’s truly safe and full of love—my heart. And maybe that realization makes me the mother I long to be after all.
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