Thursday, December 10, 2009

A "Black Criminal" and a Dead Body Does NOT a Teachable Moment Make

As you may have seen on the news, the memorial and procession for the four murdered Lakewood Police officers was held on Monday in Tacoma. It was a somber, sad day and the memorial was touching and heart wrenching.

As I watched the evening news, recaps of the event were shown. My eldest, who is seven years old, told me he saw that at school. I didn't know if it was entirely appropriate, but I understood. I was privy to many news events at my son's age, and I remember the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger vividly. I understood why it was shown.

I decided to use that time as a teachable moment for my son. I asked him if he knew what happened.

"Four police officers were killed."

I asked if he knew what happened, how they were murdered. I don't usually believe in hiding current events from my son, because I wasn't sheltered and I credit that with my need to stay informed about the world I live in. I don't like ignorance, and I have a voracious appetite for knowledge as a result. I only hope to continue this trend with my children. The response he gave me, albeit true, was crass and blunt and I knew that it didn't come from him.

"A black criminal did it."

My jaw dropped. I think I laughed in shock and then I grew serious.

"Who told you that?"

"My bus driver."

To add insult to injury, my son went on to tell me that the same bus driver went on to show the kids on her bus a picture of Maurice Clemmons' dead body on a gurney (Google it if you must. There's nothing remarkable and it's incredibly tacky).

When I saw my first dead body, was the day I became a fatalist. If you're a fatalist, then you know how terrible a burden it is to be because it, in my opinion, takes the fear of dying WAY far. Granted, I am more careful, but I spend inordinate amounts of time thinking about "fate." I wish I didn't because it's not in my hands ultimately.

I saw the smashed head of a man who had been killed in a terrible accident in Panama. His car collided with a bus, and the photographers didn't pull any punches in taking pictures. My grandfather had brought the newspaper with him when he came to visit, and I, eager to stay abreast of all the goings on at home, I was confronted with a terribly graphic image.

I can't take back the fact that he was shown the body of Clemmons, but I can use that as a way to teach him that living by the sword most assuredly will mean you will die by the sword. Luckily it wasn't too bad in the sense that it only showed his wound in his stomach (bullet wounds, depending on the weapon, can be pretty clean...At least the entry wounds. Thank God the exit wasn't shown). The wound to his eye was not visible thanks be to God. Not in that photo anyway, luckily she only found one of the two. The first one showed brain matter.

I understand the anger people have with this man. I was angered and still am disgusted with the human being that Maurice Clemmons was, but he is DEAD, and so are his poor, unsuspecting victims and no amount of photos of his body will mitigate what he did or bring the officers back.

This is not healthy for anyone. Seeing that photo does nothing for the human mind unless it is so blinded by rage and depravity that it finds something so grotesque pleasing.

Furthermore, I question what showing this dead, "black criminal" does to MY child as he navigates through this world that is emphasizing race as he gets old enough to realize the bullshit going on around him.

Maurice Clemmons was black. And I am more than willing to discuss the racial politics behind the murders with my son all day. NOT YET though. He doesn't need that yet. And while I don't pull punches with my children most times, I reserve the RIGHT to inform them of certain things.

If I were to explain it to him, I would've gone on like this:

"A wicked man killed four innocent officers for no reason whatsoever, except for being a beast and a coward. The fact that he was black has little to do with it. Sure, take into consideration his background and the difficult place he and his family came from, but at the end of the day, son, life is all about choices. No matter where you come from, you either play your position or you get played. Maurice Clemmons got played. Things will not be easy for you anyway. Add to the fact that race is a crutch for some people, black AND white, you will have to be swift and prudent in all that you do. Be wise. Be smart. Go above and beyond and never let anyone tell you that because you are who you are, you are destined to fail and cannot succeed, so that you never join the ranks of those who need you to fall into the bottom of the barrel with them."

What a f*cking world we live in when adults cannot control their damned emotions and drag kids with them. Instead of guiding the youth, she succeeded in only troubling them. That is not a burden my child should have to carry, and by God, I won't let them put it on him.

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