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Opinion: Letter to my husband: My fear of your simply ‘being Black’

AP Photo/Julie Jacobson
AP Photo/Julie Jacobson

Dear Ronnie,

While I don’t tell you this, I feel anxious every time you, a Black man, leaves the house, alone. While so far you’ve always arrived home safely, and my anxiety ends for that particular day, truth is this often-debilitating anxiety never ends.

Alas, the incident I’d once feared has already occurred. Where you’d been stopped “driving while Black” while coming home from a guys’ night out. At first glance, you are an unlikely candidate for police brutality. You are law-abiding, extremely quiet. A decorated, retired U.S. Air Force vet and a retired Emory Healthcare administrator.

“Have you been drinking, sir?” asked the policeman as he approached your car. Calmly, you told him the truth. That while you didn’t really like beer, you’d drank half a can, to be sociable.

“You aren’t under arrest or anything, but I don’t think you should drive. It’s for your safety,” the officer added.

“Do you have someone who can come get you?” (Incidentally, my husband doesn’t remember learning why he was stopped in the first place). Might it have been because you were driving a brand-new car?

My anxiety flared when the police officer called me to come pick you up, and his adding that you weren’t under arrest did little to stifle it. Although that particular incident turned out alright, it still shook up both of us. Once home, I burst into tears. Also a decorated vet, a warrior, I seldom cry.

So, for your sake and mine, please keep these things in mind: Do what the police say. And, whatever you do, do not resist. We can only seek justice if you remain alive to do so.

Altercations with police are grim reminders to wives like me. And why I fear for you. Hearing Eric Garner gasping, “I can’t breathe,” left me breathless.

Who knew, years later, that “I can’t breathe” would be the last words George Floyd, another Black man, would utter as an overzealous policeman pressed his knee into his neck, resulting in his death and igniting a movement for justice over all the world.

I get it: Cops are scared. And, rightly so. Still, could that fear result in the worst possible scenario imaginable: the killing of our Black men and boys? Alas, the answer is yes. Too often, claims of fear or self-defense are actually something more insidious — hatred.

When did the lives of Black males in our society become so insignificant? How do the deaths of Trayvon, Ahmaud, Rayshard and so many others happen, in a so-called civilized society? Maybe, author William Faulkner was right when he wrote, “The past is never dead, it’s not even past.”

So baby, please, don’t make any sudden moves. Keep your speed under the limit. And please, please don’t ever drink and drive.

Yes, Black lives matter. All lives matter. Yet, the sad, truth – the fear of losing our sons, lovers or husbands is something we black women know— better than any other women in the world.

Love,

Peaches, (his pet name for me)

Carol Gee, M.A. a retired Emory administrator and author, lives in Stone Mountain. The views here are her own.