I have been storming all day. A few drizzles, a downpour or two, several thunderstorms and a flash flood. I have stormed fourteen times today and the meteorologist said nothing. Could not find me on his weather map, could be the hue of my skin, or the unpredictability of bullets. . . . or the hue of my skin. Maybe my storms don’t show up on the radar, because even I cannot predict the next one.
I work with teens. Try to fill them with hope each time I encounter them, but today I feel hopeless and a little more afraid than I was yesterday or the day before. I want to let them talk it out. Talk about the senseless murders of black bodies. I want to instill in them awareness, but to not be afraid to live their lives. To not let these circumstances dull their shine or snatch away their voices. I am washed away by their concerns. They tell stories about their own fathers being stopped and let go only because they had a child in the car. One girl worries after the four-year-old watched her father die right in front of her. Shot by the police. Shot by the police while complying with his orders. “I mean, Ms. Theresa, will she ever sleep again? Will her dad be alive in her dreams? Will she ever trust the police?” I can feel the storm clouds gathering in my chest. Then the rains come.
The students change classes and this is good, I have a free period and I really need to get my shit together. But there is a question burning in my brain, and I need to know the answer now. So I start searching.
Dontre – 14
Kajieme – 12
Michael – 6
Oscar – 1
Miriam – 5
Yvette – 28
Alton – Multiple
Philando – Multiple
I have to stop. It’s too much. I can’t find the answer; there are too many numbers and not enough reasons for all these numbers.
“Just how many fucking bullets does it take to kill a black body?”
I ask the question aloud. I yell it, because I think I am alone. I am not. Her twelve-year-old eyes are wide open. She wears that, Ohh, you said a bad word! expression. Her slight frame stretches at an awkward angle as she reaches behind the desk she recently vacated. Her kind, shaky smile searches my face. She sees the sadness swimming down my cheeks. She gathers the forgotten item she has returned for, then lightly touches my arm.
“I heard your question, Ms. Theresa.”
I am mortified. I’m pretty sure I’m not supposed to say fuck in front of the children.
“I have an answer if you want to hear it.”
I want to hear her answer; I need to know. So, I show her my eyes.
“Well,” she clears her throat, “it seems to me that the fear of blackness is based on things that are not real, so we become not real, not human. You know how in zombie movies they have to shoot them over and over so they don’t get back up? I think they think we are like that. Even when we are in handcuffs or unconscious or just minding our own business. I think when your fear is based on something that is not real, you don’t see people you only see the blackness of your fear. So, the number of bullets it takes to kill a black body, Ms. Theresa, is all of them.”
I have stormed fifteen times today.
I know there are more storms to come.