Searching For Grace While Black And Blue
Twenty-two. That’s how old I was when Yusef Hawkins was killed by a bat-wielding, gun-toting mob of white men in New York. Eleven years later, it would be Amadou Diallo, who reached for his wallet and was met with 41 bullets.
Those incidents were stark reminders of the dangers of being Black. My mother taught me about Emmett Till, and George Stinney, Malcolm, Martin and Medgar, but that was back in the day, and things were supposed to be different.
I pray George Floyd’s death is an overdue reckoning. But I felt that way when Philando Castile bled out on my news in 2016. Yet here we are.
George Floyd’s death should be the catalyst for change. Because eight minutes and 46 seconds is a long time when you’re watching someone die. Because Derek Chauvin kneeled cavalierly on Floyd’s neck, hands in his pockets as if waiting for roll call. Because in his last breaths, Floyd called for his mother, a mother who’d passed away. I want to think he saw her reaching out for him.
As the wife of an officer, I cannot indict the police writ large. My husband has a double mandate: to be vigilant as an officer and as a Black man, for both bring judgment that could put his life in danger.
He’s seen as the enemy by many who look like us, but when he’s in blue, some officers view him only in the uniform he cannot shed at the end of the day. He carries this Catch-22 with him everywhere, yet manages to give grace to those who see him as part of the problem as well as those who can’t see beyond his skin color.
I wish that grace could be given to him, to be seen just as a man, whether he’s in his blue uniform or his black skin, because in either iteration he’s a father, a husband, a brother, a friend. I wish that grace could have been extended to those whose hearts stopped because of a bullet, a chokehold or a knee.
After all, isn’t grace what we all want — the grace to be seen, to breathe, to live?
Andréa Comer is the executive director of Educators for Excellence in Hartford. A version of this commentary first appeared in The Hartford Courant.