As I walked up to the freezing cold stainless steel table in the morgue, my knees trembled, barely able to hold my body upright, my heart sank into my stomach like a bowling ball had hit me at full force. In that moment, I wished God had taken my life instead of his.
I would’ve given anything to just see my boy smile, to hear his boisterous laugh, to feel his loving touch. But instead, there I was in the hot hell of Mississippi Heat.
As approaching the box where her heart had been ripped out and laid. She leaned up against the side of the chair, and with the sickening empty feeling in her gut, she looked at her boy’s lifeless face. She didn’t think she could feel any worse, but as she stared at his face, she became extremely overcome with pain never known to her before. His eyes swollen shut, disfigured, wrinkled beyond recognition. His lifeless skin bloated and bruised and torn. His face looked almost unhuman, like an animal out of a deep dark place under the sea. Despite the deformities and disfigured body, one thing was crystal clear to her. The world must know.
I must bare witness to the enemy we face every minute or every hour of every day. I must make a statement to the world that shows the depth of the hatred my boy faced with courage and a true heart. It’s God’s will, that he would have me bare witness to the absolute terror my son endured so that the world can see his testimony and hear his cries. Doing God’s work was the only thing that got me to survive that day. Knowing that my son’s testimony would be a beacon of light on the terrorist shadows we endured each and every minute of our lives.
This is not my story, but that of the most courageous mother I never met. I created it in my mind as I watched a special documentary about the death of Emmet Till, 14-year old African-American boy murdered by a group of white citizens in 1955.
Who in 2017 was finally revealed he died for no reason other than the fact that he was Black. The lady who had him lynched announced; “‘That part’s not true,’ about her claim that Till had made verbal and physical advances on her. “
As I watched and listened, I entered that story and imagined it was Kaleb lying there at age 14, lifeless, cold, and so brutally beaten, I couldn’t recognize his sweet face. I then thought about the amount of courage his mother, Mamie Till, had to not only bury her son, but to have a open casket funeral for the world to see what America does to its children.
Yes, what America does, white privilege is not just about individual racist acts, it’s about participation in a nation’s systems that not only perpetuate racist Stereotypes , teaching whites to hate blacks, but it’s also the same system that offers no consequences to the murders and terrorist acts by one group of citizens upon the other.
I then think about the hatred and evil in the men who beat and murdered Emmet Till, what led them to that point? they were once just babies, small children, even young teens just like Emmet, so where did they learn this level of hatred and utter disgust over another human being? How could this happen?
I don’t have all the answers, but I do know putting myself in her shoes, even for a brief moment, was one of the most heart wrenching experiences of my life.
Now to connect the legacy of Dr king, this election and new presidency, and being a woke white woman.
After I watched this program on Emmet Till and his mother, I asked myself, what do I want to know why people to know? How can I convert my fellow white Americans to seeing our freedom is bound to all.
But then I dig even deeper, and I asked why did I vote for Hillary? Why was I so willing to vote for the same system, under a different name. See even if Hillary had won, there wouldn’t be a national discourse amongst white people on how to end systemic racism. In fact, I would argue that having Hillary in office would be even more damaging than this guy. Why?
Because us white liberals would have continued to think we live in a post-racial America where people are all treated equally and racism is essentially over. I’m actually glad the other guy one, because it sure as hell woke me up!!
And now I’m writing, sharing, teaching whoever will listen on how we can undo systematic racism and truly all be liberated from fear, hatred, poverty, and powerlessness. My mission is to empower others to take action, to bare witness, to educate themselves, to boycott, fundraise, lead book groups, attend anti-racism trainings, and just start taking about about what white privilege does tonour hearts and souls. How participating in the systems that boost us while blocking others only tears us apart from the inside.
Because at the end of the day, we are all humans, we are all children of God, we are all connected by a life force, and when we don’t speak out against that which hurts our brothers and sisters, we are hurting ourselves for eternity. We must look to people like Dr. king and Mamie Till for strength and courage, but we also must look in the mirror every day, and ask, if not me, who? If not now, when? What will by great-grandchildren be proud to say about me in this time of injustice and inequality? What will I be proud to say I did to not only free my brown brothers and sisters, but to also free myself?
In honor of the most courageous mother out time: “Two months ago I had a nice apartment in Chicago. I had a good job. I had a son. When something happened to the Negroes in the South I said, `That’s their business, not mine.’ Now I know how wrong. I was. The murder of my son has shown me that what happens to any of us, anywhere in the world, had better be the business of us all.” -Mamie Till
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