New Friends

We love road trips over here.  It’s partly because we can see the sights at our own pace and partly because we get to spend long periods of time with one another and talk.  Besides, when we get there we have a car of our own with enough room to tote all my stuff.  Believe me, I’m able to acquire quite a bit of stuff on a week-long trip.  This last vacation, I came back with school clothes for the little one, two lamps, sheets…

The point is we left home, my family and I, just after Ferguson, headed for the gulf of Mexico. Because nothing’s better than sunset at the gulf of Mexico.

Mississippi Riv

Leaving home, I looked over my shoulder at my kid packed, instead of all my random collectibles, in the backseat and thought, “Mike Brown’s mom must be ready to die.  All of the moms I know are ready to die, thinking about losing a child that way.  I need some new friends. Someone needs to explain this to me and all of my friends are as outdone as I am.”

And then in Illinois, well above the Mason Dixon, we hit a truck stop.  I saw this lovely couple who were laughing and teasing as they crossed the parking lot.  They were gazing into one another’s eyes- lost in that little bubble of love that surrounds the young.  As they parted ways to visit the bathrooms he said, “See?  Now you sound like a Nigger.”

He said that.  Out loud. 

I may have gasped, and the girlfriend’s eyes darted over to me, while her face turned a deep shade of red.  He never looked my way. She scurried off while I watched her boyfriend walk into the bathroom. 

Who knows what they were talking about?  I didn’t have time to ask, because I was I running through the truck stop calling my daughter’s name.  She was somewhere looking for a snack when there were people like this on the loose.  I only could see her as a target just another caramel skinned victim.  I found her standing near the root beer with her father, like she should’ve been – unharmed but wondering why I was out of breath and sweating. “What’s wrong with you?”  She asked.

What’s wrong with me? There was no way to explain what was wrong with me at that moment to my girl.  I don’t even know if I answered her.  I do know that I messed up her giant fluffy hair even more holding her, and said the only thing I could think of, “I love you, child.”

We left the store, me knowing this much:  I do not, in fact, want new friends.  I want my old friends. And I want them to be as horrified by the open season on Black children as I am.  I want for all  of us to do something, other than bust the lip of that boy in the truck stop. I also want to bubble-of-love wrap those I care for and prepare them to be safe in a world that has no respect for them.

And more than ever, I want to continue the civil rights movement, knowing that power and privilege may not lean in my favor in my lifetime.  

Thanks, amen.

Biloxi sunset


About thanks amen

Michelle is an artist from Milwaukee, Wisconsin whose professional experience spans working as an educator, nonprofit executive, and consultant. She has a fear of clowns and pecans, and works every day to listen at least twice as much as she talks.
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