Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Why I Went to Ferguson

When my flight from Kansas City landed at McCarren Airport, Mike Brown was still alive, coasting through the last day of summer with his friend Dorian Johnson. But by the time I got to Oakland, he was dead, face down in the street after being shot six times by Officer Darren Wilson. As I was reaching up into the overhead compartment and strolling through the airport toward a reunion with my family, Michael Brown's mother paced back and forth on a street for four hours looking at her dead son and unable to hold him in her arms. The indignities suffered by this family are too numerous to count, but this one, in my mind is perhaps the greatest.

If you are a mother, can you imagine looking at the body of your dead child and not being able to hold him?

I cannot. And what I know is this--had that been my child, I would have disregarded instruction. I would have told every police officer to back off and pushed my way through the crime scene tape, and grabbed my son in my arms, cradling him on that hot pavement. I would have thought about the day he was born and all the times I'd spanked him when I wished I hadn't. I would have remembered birthdays and funny things he said and then I would think to myself, But that won't happen any more because this is him and he's gone now and I am undone. People would try to move me, but I wouldn't listen. I would only sit, sweaty legs splayed out on the street, arms wrapped around that man child (I have three of them--I know the weight when you hold them now). I would have kissed his face and told him I loved him. Over and over I would say that, I love you--don't go. I would snarl at the police officer who tried to gently take my arm, and tell him I'm not going anywhere because this is my baby, don't you see? I can't leave my baby. And every police officer around would let me do this because that's what happens when you look like me.

But Leslie McSpadden doesn't look like me. And so she watched from an inhumane distance as the nightmare that was only beginning took hold of her life.

That's why I went to Ferguson.