My son doesn’t look like Ahmaud Arbery.
His eyes are a light, buttery brown. His skin is lighter, warm and tawny, but still darker than my own. My son’s hair isn’t black like Ahmaud Arbery’s. Instead his dark brown curls twist and loop away from his scalp towards the sky.
But to a certain type of person, Ahmaud Arbery and my son do look the same. In fact, to this type of person, all black men look EXACTLY THE SAME.
On May 6th, 2020 I found out about Ahmaud Arbery. On May 6th, 2020 I picked up a burden I now share with all the black mothers I know. But as shocking as this feeling is for me, as fresh this new terror, I cannot—we cannot—forget these women have carried this horror for generations.
Black mothers have watched as their sons were herded on to ships like cattle. They’ve seen their sons whipped and burned. Hung and killed. They’ve fought and cried. Howled and sang. Marched and battled.
They’ve watched their sons have to “walk around back” and “have what’s left”. They’ve watched as their sons fight not just to be heard, or be seen, or be respected—but to be allowed to LIVE FREELY!
They’ve watched their sons break new ground in industries only to be overshadowed by someone with less pigment. They’ve watched their sons be put on pedestals when they agree to glorify the violence of their community or objectify their sisters. They’ve watched their sons be cheered on by the direct descendants of those who systematically structured their pain.
And we—WE!—don’t have the decency to apologize to their mothers until it’s too late. Until their sons are lost to a lifestyle we know to be dangerous. Designed. To. Be. Dangerous! These mothers are forced to watch as their sons become a true human sacrifice, immortalized, but still forever gone.
DO NOT ask these women to be quiet! DO NOT ask them to calm down!
DO NOT ask these mothers to “see reason” when the world we have created gives none.
DO NOT chide them for brandishing influence over their sons when it is THE ONLY WEAPON THEY HAVE!
I’m not adding to this conversation, it has gone on far too long for that. Because of our failures, the fears of these mothers were woven into them as their children were carefully knitted in the womb. This unimaginable horror has been sewn into their lives. A shroud they’re forced to carry until it must be put to use.
I cannot breathe this morning. This terror is new to me and deep enough to make my breath shallow.
But allow me to ask of you this:
Tell your white sons to be mindful of their friends’ blackness. Not to trivialize it or allow it to be objectified. Ask your white sons to stand beside their black friends, to love them as the brothers they are. To not let them walk alone. To not let them be seen as anything other than the young men they are. Talk to your sons. TELL THEM! Do not assume that they already know.
Your son may not look like Ahmaud Arbery.
But neither does mine.
It is their hearts, their minds, and that they are made in the image of a loving God—that they are the same.
On May 6th, 2020 I learned his name. On May 6th, 2020 I heard the horrifying story that ended his life. On May 6th, 2020 I realized that my sweet, perfect boy is in the same mortal danger that killed Ahmaud Arbery because of ignorance, and hate, and the color of his skin.
On May 6th, 2020 I was handed a shroud, but I put it down and picked up the phone.
It is time to be loud, my friends. It’s passed time to BE LOUD.
We cannot CONTINUE to lose these young men. We cannot allow this to KEEP happening. There was no gray in Ahmaud Arbery’s death.
There was only black and white.
Update: Thank you for reading this. I appreciate having the space to share my feelings on this story, but more importantly this is a time to amplify our friend’s voices. They are the real “experts” on what it is to be black in America.
I have had some really wonderful friends ask me what they can do to help. I’d like to direct you to your black friends. If you do not have any black friends, that is a great place to start. Build relationships in your community. Learn from the people around you, ask them how you can help and then don’t be afraid to listen. Donate your time and money. Read past the stories in the news. FOLLOW UP. Keep talking to each other. Step out of your comfort zones and really do the work God has put you on this earth to do.
Liza Dora is an author, illustrator, teacher, mother, wife, blogger, and the owner of the eponymous Liza Dora Books. Her writing has been in publications around the world and her books have been featured in both media and print. She’s sold books in over ten different countries and her titles have been both Amazon Hot New Releases and Amazon Bestsellers in their respective categories.