Watching This Young Black Girl Get Pepper Sprayed by Police Should Enrage All Moms

A 15-year-old Maryland girl was handcuffed and pepper sprayed by police in a horrifying bodycam video that should enrage every mother. Her crime? She was in a bike accident. But instead of medical attention, she got roughed up by the officers who are sworn to protect her. This is something every mom needs to get busy trying to fix. Especially white ones like me.

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This video requires all the trigger warnings for a mother. A young girl screaming as she's being roughed up by a group of police officers. The little black girl being held down by a group of white cops while she yells "Get off me!" over and over again is just viscerally disturbing and totally unacceptable.

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The only person in the situation who made any sense at all was a concerned bystander who tried to step in and cool the officers down. After after being screamed at to "get back" by the cops, this guy just said, "You let that badge go to your head, man."

It's hard to watch:

Someone needs to be held accountable.

Sure, there are loads of comments on social media saying the girl should have "listened to the cops" and that their kids "respect authority" and I guess that makes them feel superior. I don't think they know how much their white privilege is showing.

Can people really not understand why a young black girl might be terrified of white police officers? Truly?

Still don't think this is outrageous? Close your eyes and imagine this exact thing happening to a 15-year-old white girl with long blond hair.

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If police watched my baby get in an accident and instead of trying to help her, cuffed and threw her in the back of a police car and pepper sprayed her in the face while she screamed, I would be furious. And shocked. But I'm white and I have the luxury of being shocked by this. For mothers of color, watching violence carried out against their children is far too common.

And it's time for white mothers everywhere to recognize and openly admit that the rules are different for our kids. And we bear the responsibility to speak out and work against it.

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White moms who want to join the fight to protect kids of color in our communities might first consider taking the time to listen to mothers who know best.

I reached out to one of the smartest writers around on the topic of parenting children of color, Jasmine Banks, to ask her how to talk about racial injustice and parenting as a white woman. She patiently reminded me that I shouldn't. I don't know what the hell I'm talking about because I've never raised a child of color in America. Instead I need to listen to the women who know better and follow their lead.

Maybe more white mothers like me should take the time to hear from women like Danielle Slaughter, who blogs at Mamademics and is willing to share exactly how she feels raising a black son in an environment with so much police violence against men of color: 

There is no amount of parenting that I can do that will stop my son from falling victim to these type of racial prejudices. No amount of good parenting can stop someone from being killed by a stray bullet, and certainly not the police. I can teach my son how to comply and to lie face down, and they can still shoot him in his back. I can tell him to raise his hands and never walk around with a gun, and he can still be shot by police.

Her powerful words in addition to mounting video evidence that, for people of color, putting their hands up is no guarantee they won't be shot and killed by police should be enough to convince us we need change. Just this week we watched a Tulsa police officer kill 40-year-old Terence Crutcher, whose car stalled and who approached police with his hands raised.

How can anyone who's raised a baby of her own and worried about his or her safety not be outraged by this?

We need to listen to mothers raising children of color like Kelly Wickham, who blogs at Mocha Momma, where she offers actual changes we can advocate for at schools right now to make them more inclusive of children of color, like creating safe spaces for kids to express themselves and encourage more family participation.

And we need to listen to moms like Banks who are willing to share the raw emotional moments about talking to her precious son about his blackness.

These are words every mother needs to hear. Then we can understand how to do better.

On the issue of police violence in particular, we can advocate for law enforcement reforms like those proposed by Campaign Zero, which has a range of ideas to stop police violence like increased community oversight and more training for police officers to recognize and overcome inherent race bias in policing. 

But nothing can change until we all stand together, face the problems, and demand they get fixed. Today.

I like to believe that motherhood is essentially a big club of women bound by our investment in making the world better for all of our babies. We make wine jokes and share war stories and a sense of unspoken camaraderie in part because we know that the future of all of the children we love is bound together. That's why every mother needs to start speaking openly about the danger for children of color in America.

They are all of our children. And when another woman's baby is treated the way this little girl in Maryland was, she deserves to know we all have her back.

Sorry so many of us white moms are late getting here -- now it's our job to make up for lost time.

 

 

 Image via ABC News/Facebook

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