For the Mothers Whose Children Won't Come Back

By Kaeley McEvoy 5-08-2015
Mothers of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, and Eric Garner. Via CNN

“I am so sad about the young black boy shot in the back. Imagine the mother of that child seeing her son shot down like an animal? People need to stop this and know it is not okay. The families need to know how much others care and what amazes me is the grace and goodness of the family members. Just thought I would plant a seed.”

It was an e-mail from my mother. But it seemed so much more like a plea: a helpless plea from one mother to her child on behalf of another woman and her child.

My mother sent me that e-mail in early April after Walter Scott was fatally shot in the back by a police officer in North Carolina. I almost began crying in my office chair while reading her heartfelt plea.

A child seeing her mother upset is one thing, but a mother watching a recording of her child’s death, what words suffice? What words describe that kind of misery?

How could this happen again? And how could it be caught on video, again?

How many mothers have now lost their son or daughter at the hands of police? How many children have now been slaughtered because of the color of their skin?

What pains me the most is the historically repetitive pattern of black and brown children being taken from their mothers by governing authorities.

In 1955, it was Emmett Till’s mother, Mamie Till, who in the words of James Cone, “refused to allow her son’s death to remain in the shadows or to fade from public memory.” Mamie Till Bradley insisted that her son’s casket be open for a three-day viewing so that “everyone [could] see what they did to [her] boy.”

Cone continues in his Cross and the Lynching Tree, that Mamie Till was “pleading with God to let her son’s death count for something — to help save other black boys from Emmett’s fate.”

Decades later, Mamie Till’s plea is still awaiting affirmation.

The mothers of four unarmed black men and boys — Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, and Eric Garner — all agreed that if their sons were white, they would still be alive today.

"I think absolutely my son's race and the color of his skin had a lot to do with why he was shot and killed," Sybrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon Martin told CNN's Anderson Cooper.

When my 20-year-old Caucasian brother Kyle leaves the house in a hoodie, my mother does not have to worry about his safety. When men and boys of color leave the house to go to a convenience store, women of color do have to worry if their children will return home safely. That is the difference. Mothers of color are more likely to have their children killed.

Men and boys of color are 21 times more likely to be fatally shot by the police than their white counterparts. Of the 1,217 deadly police shootings that occurred from 2010-2012, men of color between the ages of 15 to 19 were killed at a rate of 31.17 per million, while the rate for white males the same age was only 1.47 per million.

This pattern is not new. It is old and repetitive. And it is sickening.

When the Roman authorities crucified Mary’s innocent son while she looked on, the misery that ached in her heart is palpable to us a millennial later. What did Mary feel like when Jesus called out to her as he was being crucified? How heavy was her heart when she walked away and the Beloved disciple “took her into his home” (John 19: 26-27)? Again, words do not suffice.

However, in Mary’s agony, there is redemption. There is resurrection. Mary’s son came back.

Emmett. Trayvon. Rekia. Michael. Aiyana. Tamir. Eric. Walter. Freddie. Maya.

These sons and daughters will not come back to their mothers. These children of God will not send another Mother’s Day card. They will not reach graduation, or experience marriage, or bear grandchildren. They will not come back.

For the sake of my mother, for the sake of all mothers, for the sake of Mother God herself, I pray that redemption will come.

Kaeley McEvoy is Campaigns Assistant for Sojourners.

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