In the wake of Michael Brown's murder, there is been a tremendous amount of pain and fury among residents of his tiny Missouri town. Though, that is surely nothing compared to the agony his mother Lesley McSpadden has endured since the unarmed teen was gunned down in the street by a cop. She is now apart of a club that is tragically growing in number every month. Also a member? Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin. She too lost a teenage son due to senseless gun violence and she reached out to Brown's family in a heartbreaking letter.
Though her 17-year-old, unarmed child was mercilessly gunned down by George Zimmeran two years ago, that searing pain is as acute as if it were yesterday.
I wish I had a word of automatic comfort but I don’t. I wish I could say that it will be alright on a certain or specific day but I can’t. I wish that all of the pain that I have endured could possibly ease some of yours but it won’t. What I can do for you is what has been done for me: pray for you then share my continuing journey as you begin yours.
Fulton also touches on the most chilling lesson in all of this: these incidences are anything but rare. There is an increasing number of young, black, unarmed men that have been gunned down at the hands of so-called vigilantes like Zimmerman and police officers. For us mothers of black boys, it's a frightening reality. We are raising them in a world where the their lives are not valued as much as others. Just by virtue of being black, they are in danger whether they have committed crimes or not.
Of particular concern is that so many of these gun violence cases involve children far too young. But Michael is much more than a police/gun violence case; Michael is your son. A son that barely had a chance to live. Our children are our future so whenever any of our children – black, white, brown, yellow, or red – are taken from us unnecessarily, it causes a never-ending pain that is unlike anything I could have imagined experiencing.
But the killings are often accompanied by character assassinations too. The police were quick to point out that Brown may be a suspect in a robbery -- nevermind the cop who shot him did not know that.
All of this pain is compounded, of course, when the killer goes free. In the case of Trayvon, Zimmerman walked because of the Stand Your Ground law. For Brown's shooter, the judgment remains to be seen. But in many of these cases, police officers go free. I can't help but think of the 1999 death of Amadou Diallo. In New York City, where I am raising my child, he was shot 41 times outside his home by four cops who said they thought he was reaching for a gun. In reality, he was reaching for his wallet to show them his ID. Despite what can only be called as a disgusting, deadly, overreaction, they were all acquitted. There are many, many more cases just like this.
So how does a mother move on from this? For Fulton, she has devoted her life to the Trayvon Martin Foundation, which helps families who have lost children because of gun violence. She had these profound words of advice for the devastated McSpadden:
Honor your son and his life, not the circumstances of his alleged transgressions. I have always said that Trayvon was not perfect. But no one will ever convince me that my son deserved to be stalked and murdered. No one can convince you that Michael deserved to be executed. But know this: neither of their lives shall be in vain ... While we fight injustice, we will also hold ourselves to an appropriate level of intelligent advocacy. If they refuse to hear us, we will make them feel us.
What a gut-wrenching bond this two women now share.
What do you think of Fulton's letter to Michael Brown's mother?
Image via © Jeff Roberson/AP/Corbis