Parenting in the Era of #BlackLivesMatter

The hashtag #BlackLivesMatter first came into being two years ago after the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the slaying of Trayvon Martin.

At that time, my wife and I had just graduated law school and were studying for the California Bar Exam with the hope of becoming civil rights attorneys.

The irony of our situation did not escape us. We were studying in order to become a part of a system that had repeatedly failed Black people and other marginalized communities in the melting pot we call America.

I remember being dismayed but not surprised at the verdict and having a feeling of despair that was hard to fully grasp and process in that moment. After all, we were studying sixteen hours a day in an effort to be sworn into the ranks of the barristers. We wanted to wield our power to uphold our ideals, even if we felt it was an uphill battle, even if we felt our ideals conflicted with the world around us. We felt somehow we could suspend the inevitable realization that no matter how centered we were in our own morals, the world we were entering, the justice system, was at its center not driven by morality but rather by the deepest, darkest aspects of humanity. It is where power and privilege are put on daily display for all to see, yet in even the most blatantly obvious of such displays, there would always be those who denied it was so.

To put in mildly we were in a precarious situation.

Nevertheless, the months of studying and preparation passed, the bar exam was completed, and we went on to begin our careers as civil rights attorneys at prominent organizations in the Bay Area, mostly working in the area of education.

Three months later and immediately after being sworn into the California Bar, we found out we were expecting a son.

The stress of parenting started immediately.

Where would we live when he was born? Some of my work as an attorney had made me aware that the area where we were living had one of the highest incidents of childhood asthma in the country.

I was seeking a new job after my post-graduate fellowship ended. Would the place I began working allow me both to provide for my family and also to be a present father to my son? I never wanted to play the role as just the provider; I needed to be there.

As the months rolled on and the baby's August 2014 arrival drew closer, the stress continued to build. No doubt much of that was that age-old stress of a first-time parent, but there was also something much deeper there.

Eric Garner died on July 17, 2014.

Less than thirty days before I was to become a father, I watched a video of another father being choked out by the police.

John Crawford was shot in Walmart on August 5, 2014.

Seventy-two hours later, my son was born on August 8, 2014.

The day after his birth, on August 9, 2014, Michael Brown was shot.

Less than forty-eight hours after I first held my son in my arms, the news was filled with the gruesome details of the killing of someone else's.

I was lucky to be hired by a small firm and thankful to be able to delay my start date such that I could spend every day of my baby's first three months with him.

About a month after I went back to work, Tamir Rice was killed on November 22, 2014. Just over thirty days after I left my baby for the first time, the nation watched as a family mourned the loss of theirs.

Three days later, it was announced that the grand jury would not be indicting Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown. Seeing this, and seeing how life simply went on at my office, attorneys keeping their noses in their laptops, brought me to write "Ferguson, Garner, and the Paradox of the Black Attorney."

Now we have come full circle.

My son just celebrated his first birthday. We just mourned the two year anniversary of George Zimmerman's acquittal and the one year anniversaries of the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown. We saw the death of Sandra Bland, the mistreatment and profiling of Black youth at the pool in McKinney, Texas, and other incidents of racism and hate too great in number to count.

These events weigh heavily on me every day. As I shared my son's special day with family and friends, I mourned these losses, and I also mourned the days I have been away from my son as I work to provide for our family.

Parenting in the era of #BlackLivesMatter is a stark reminder that it all can be taken away at any moment.

I am only one car stop gone left, one sidewalk encounter gone awry, a play day at the park gone wrong, a walk home turned tragic, or a mistaken identification while shopping away from never seeing my son again. This means that every second spent away from him feels like an unacceptable gamble.

Parenting in the era of #BlackLivesMatter means that we are prisoners of circumstance with no way of escaping. Not even our total innocence can guard us from a fog of suspicion. It means each day I kiss my son goodbye, I do so like it could be the last time.