I am preparing to bathe my children as the verdict from the Dunn trial begins to slowly drizzle down my news feed. I can’t describe the feeling in the pit of my stomach, but it isn’t a good one. I’m not going to get emotionally invested in this. I can’t do it this time.
“Time for bath!” Groans (from my five-year-old daughter); gleeful squeal accompanied by the rustling of a diaper on toddler legs running for the bathroom (my 19-month-old son). I can’t think about this right now. I run the bathwater, pour in the Jake and the Neverland Pirates bubble bath (for the person who doesn’t even care what kind of bubble bath it is, just as long as there are bubbles), wash little bodies. I run water over the beady-b’s on my son’s head. He squints from the water hitting his eyes. One day he’ll be bigger. One day he’ll wash his own hair. One day he will be 17. I can’t think about this right now.
But I do think about it.
I think about the miscarriage I had before he was conceived. That didn’t make me special. Millions of women have miscarriages. But mine messed me up. I cried for weeks after seeing that still fetus on the ultrasound screen. That image is still burned in my head to this day.
Then I got pregnant with my son. I hoped. I prayed.
He was my second chance. He was my rainbow at the end of the storm. I staked my hopes and dreams in that little mass of cells that grew in my womb. I thanked God for every day he was still inside me.
I think about the night he was born. How his heart rate dipped dangerously low while I was in labor. How I begged God to let me have him. Not “your will be done, God.” No. Give him to me. After what I had been through, I felt like I deserved him. Was I wrong to think like that? Maybe. I didn’t care. I just wanted him.
I was six months pregnant with him when Trayvon Martin was killed. And his killer claimed self-defense. It hurt then, as the prospective mother of a Black son, to know that one day he could walk down the street in a hoodie, and be deemed threatening enough to end up “justifiably” dead. It hurt even more after I gazed upon my son’s face for the first time.
He was a year old when the trial for Trayvon Martin’s killer was held. I couldn’t bring myself to watch. I read about it on Facebook. But I couldn’t watch. I’m a lawyer. I have practiced law in a criminal courtroom. I know about jury instructions and elements of murder versus elements of manslaughter. I know about imminent danger of receiving a battery. I get it. But my head, though sizeable, did not have room for my lawyer hat on it. My mother-of-a-Black-son hat took up all of that ample real estate.
I think about what it would feel like, after nearly losing my rainbow once, before I even got to meet him, to have him grow up by the grace of God to be a teenager, and have him taken away from me. I think about being told the circumstances of his death, and knowing that his killer was told “that’s okay, you were justified in killing him.” And then I can’t think beyond that.
So then when the trial for Jordan Davis’s killer is happening, I can’t watch it either. Because I keep seeing my son, as a 17-year-old in a hoodie, as a 17-year-old in an SUV listening to loud rap music, and I can’t think anymore.
Because how can anyone tell me that the son I prayed for and cried over and pleaded with God for means nothing? How can anyone tell me that the son who means the world to me is worthless, that if he dies simply for being a teenage boy, it’s okay?
No lawyer hat in the world will be able to justify that to me.