When Mother's Day became a national holiday in 1914, it was designed to honor the sacrifices mothers made for their children. Though commercialization of the holiday is undeniable, it remains a day where many of us celebrate and thank the women that birthed and or nurtured and raised us.
But this Mother's Day feels different. Ominous somehow and heavy with sorrow. It seems wrong to celebrate when so many mothers are in pain. Whether weeping over the unarmed, and largely ignored, corpses of their daughters slain by police or burning with rage at the duplicity of verdicts like the acquittal of Dante Servin, black mothers across the nation are suffering.
While off-duty, Servin shot and killed an unarmed, young black woman, Rekia Boyd, 22. He fired a 9 mm over his shoulder into Rekia and a group of her friends as their backs were turned in a Chicago alley in 2012. Last week he was found not guilty of manslaughter. According to the judge: "The act of intentionally firing a gun at some person or persons on the street is an act that is so dangerous it is beyond reckless; it is intentional and the crime, if there be any, is first-degree murder."
Angela Helton, Rekia's mother, through tears cried: "He literally blew her brains out. ... Her brains were laying in the alley." Servin gets to go home and be with his family and loved ones. Ms. Helton will never see her baby girl Rekia in this life again.
It's as bitter a harvest as the recent findings in the Natasha McKenna slaying. McKenna, 37, of Alexandria, VA, died after being shocked with a stun gun four times while in handcuffs and leg shackles. The medical examiner listed her cause of death as "Schizophrenia and Bi-Polar Disorder," while noting that her physical restraint and the use of a "conductive energy device" contributed. The manner of death was listed as an: "Accident."
This finding is nearly as absurd as those leaks claiming that Freddie Gray, 25, had broken his own neck while his arms and legs were bound behind his back in a Baltimore police van.
That six officers have been charged is promising. Freddie Gray's mother, Gloria Darden said the charges allow her son to "be in peace now," but when will she find peace? When will the rest of us?
Samaria Rice seems as far from peace as one can get. Her son Tamir Rice, 12, was fatally shot by Cleveland police while playing with a toy gun on a playground last November. Mother's Day will find her still waiting for answers from the investigation into his death. She will do so from the homeless shelter where she now resides, in part because she could no longer stand to live next door to the park where Tamir was killed.
These tragic circumstances underscore the need for the movement against police brutality and it spotlights the connection between race, gender, poverty, and state sanctioned violence--and the resulting trauma. Black women like Ms. Rice, single mothers with children under 18 have the highest rate of poverty, 47.5%. Single black women between 36 and 49 have a median net worth of $5 as opposed to the $42,600 of their white counterparts. These conditions make black mothers and their children vulnerable targets for a bloated, yet ever-hungry and violent criminal justice system.
The weight of the carnage is incalculable. Still, let us use this mourning on Mother's Day to galvanize the struggle for substantive structural change in the administration of justice so that "rioters" are not facing harsher sentences for allegedly breaking windows than those officers who allegedly broke a human being's spine, never mind their oaths to protect and serve. We also have to advocate for poor mothers and their children by supporting wage equality and an increased minimum wage.
Let's also respond as feverishly to the deaths of black women and girls, because Aiyana, Rekia, Tanisha, Natasha and their families also deserve justice and, if nothing else, love and support from their people. Perhaps then their mothers will be able to find peace on this special day. Perhaps then we all can.
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