“I’m still struggling with her death. She was my best friend and biggest fan.” “What’s your happiest memory of her?” “When I graduated from high school, I had to either sing a song or recite a poem. I sang a song that she’d taught me, and she was in the front row, clapping louder than everyone.” “Do you remember the song?” “‘I never can forget the day, I heard my mother kindly say, You’re leaving now my tender care; Remember, child, your mother’s prayer.’”
By the time Jeff was two years old he was talking. He called himself ‘Jeffy’ and held fingers up to indicate his age. He could also say ‘potty’, ‘Up pease’, and ‘TV’, and within a few more months had memorised his first prayer. The words of the prayer were. ‘Now lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. God bless everyone. Make Jeffy a good boy. Amen.’ - The Shrine of Jeffrey Dahmer, Brian Masters
How does a mother comfort her daughter who is terrified she will be shot by the police just for being black? There is no denying or avoiding what is happening in our country. My daughter hears about violence and racism from friends and on the news. She experiences racism first hand from the people around her. We must talk to her about it. It’s not developmentally appropriate to discuss these matters with her. She’s only 11 years old. But black and brown children in our country don’t get the privilege of being sheltered from such matters. Their bodies and souls are threatened. We parents have to teach them how to live with that, no matter what color we are.
I once believed I would figure out a way to teach my daughter about racism without letting her internalize it. I fear that is not possible, but I am trying not to give up hope. The truth is that she already knows that no matter how smart, kind, funny, musical, and charming she is, in some instances people will judge her harshly just because she is black. Nor should she have to be smart, kind, funny, musical, or charming to be safe. That should be an inalienable right.
I told her we are working to help the police learn to be more careful. I told her she is precious no matter what anyone else might say or do. Everything I said seemed inadequate. The best I could do was hold her through the worst of it; offer my own body up to her as a shield of love and pray for her safety. Pray that no matter what she suffers, goodness will come out of it. Then my prayers turned to myself–that I would see how to contribute toward making this world better, not only for her, but for all people. I considered writing about this heart-breaking time we spent together this afternoon as a starting place.
When I asked my daughter if I could blog about this experience, she said, “OK Mommy, but it can’t have any jokes in it. It has to be only sad this time.” I usually read her my blogs that are about her before I post them. I am embarrassed to say, I couldn’t get through this one without crying. I don’t want her to feel responsible for my own fear, but sometimes it slips out.