It always amazes me how death can make you reexamine all your life choices. Let me start with some background. I am 34 years old, successful in my career, college-educated, unmarried, and without any children. I bet you’re thinking, that’s not unique, there are a lot of women in your position. You are right! There are thousands of women just like me, Black women who have yet to take that plunge into motherhood. Granted, some of us don’t ever want to, but some of us do. My thoughts lately aren’t focused on why haven’t we, but instead why would we ever want to?
My six-year-old nephew is my best friend. Anything I enjoy doing, he enjoys too and we LOVE spending time together. I love him more than anything I could ever express in a blog, and caring for him makes me wonder about how I’d be as a parent. But, tbh, it also scares the sh*t out of me.
April 11-17 is Black Maternal Health Week. The week was designed to highlight the dangers Black women face when giving birth, especially those dangers that go beyond the normal child-bearing risks. We’re not only worried about gestational diabetes and high blood pressure, we have a culture of racism and white supremacy culture making it more difficult for Black women to safely have babies in our country.
We are out here dying to bring Black babies into the world. In Virginia, Black women are also two to three times more likely to die from pregnancy related causes than white women. But why? Because the entire system is stacked against us. Everything from not being believed by doctors to lack of access to healthcare before we even get pregnant to racist health disparities that trace back GENERATIONS, we are set up for failure from the start.
Now about the death that made me question everything. April has been drowning in media coverage of the Derek Chauvin trial, the officer convicted of murdering George Floyd. As Mr. Floyd was choked by Chauvin against the pavement, he used his last breaths to call out for his recently deceased mother. Naturally, this made me think about what his mother would have thought about all of this. What would have gone through her head as she had to witness her son’s murder go viral, being helpless to come to his aid, and then having to relive the entire tragedy over again for the trial. Can you put yourself in her shoes? Well, I certainly tried to.
I thought about what it would be like to see my sweet nephew under the knee of a racist cop snuffing his life out like my nephew was nothing. Then, I thought about how’d I’d react to my flesh and blood being spilled on the sidewalk and all the world just watching. It tore me apart. Sadly, this isn’t even the first time I’ve had these thoughts. I have them so much I can’t even watch the videos anymore. A part of me dies every time I see the hate triumph over our right to simply exist. We recognize the need to protect Black mothers during pregnancy, but what happens after that? Why should we get pregnant if racist cops keep killing our children? What exactly is the point?
George Floyd and other victims like him are strangers to me, but they represent so much of the trauma that Black people must endure in this country. Chauvin’s conviction delivers a little bit of accountibility, but it’s not enough. Until the day comes when my nephew, my father, my mother, and all Black people can live in this society without fear of being killed by the men and women meant to protect us or without the fear of dying from inadequate healthcare, we’ll never be able to breathe. We will never have trust in a system that was designed to oppress us.
We can’t go on like this. The frustration I feel will not be fixed by advocacy alone. I mean how do you undo four hundred years of enslavement, systemic racism, and white supremacy? Still, we must NOT give up. Advocacy brought us civil rights, voting rights, freedom from slavery, freedom to marry, and so much more. Even when we are weary, we can’t stop. We deserve to have children and survive the experience. We deserve to see our children grow up and not be stolen from us by law enforcement. We deserve to have full lives without the crushing weight of white supremacy. We deserve to see the heart of the Confederacy destroyed once and for all, forever.
And so, we must vote. We must end qualified immunity. We must pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. Though they may seem like little things, they are actually a matter of life and death. OUR lives and OUR deaths. We press on in spite of all. We press on now just like all of our ancestors before us. We make them see us, hear us, and we keep on breathing because THAT is exactly the point.