You are fourteen, and despite the childish laughter— the one smoother than the fresh coat of love on a baby’s skin— your mothers must warn you that certain skin tones won’t allow you to flash open innocence.
You are not allowed to purchase candy, tell jokes, or ring the wrong doorbell.
Certain histories won’t let you forget the present or permit childhood to take advantage of your fingertips.
Responsibilities follow you home in warm booties, blankets, and prophecies. If you had known that your existence would give birth to a movement, long before your feet hit the ground. Before your mother’s pelvis danced against your father’s, and his kiss brushed upon her skin…
Did they tell you that you were born for this?
Did they tell you about the cries of Israel when they reached into the heavens like hands just as heavy as your parent’s hearts, knocking against the doors of heaven because too many of their prayers ended in question marks?
Did they tell you that you were destined for this?
That you had the freedom movement stamped to your backside like a receipt back to the soil.
Like your fathers had to spit their seed into a melody, an Amazing Grace and Birmingham Sunday, carving its lyrics and your names into the history books of our yet unborn.
And while you rest they march scripture on the bed of your misunderstood self.
The death of Sheila Abdus-Salaam, the first African-American woman, and the first Muslim, to serve on New York’s highest court and the shooting of Karen Smith, a teacher, in San Bernardino, shot and killed by her estranged husband.
We’ve known “What” since stepping foot off slave ships. We’ve known “What” since the crack of the whip. We’ve known “What” since Lynch mobs and sharecropping. We’ve known “What” since overseers, paddy rollers and colored signs. We’ve known “What” since the back of city buses and Jim Crow. We’ve known “What” since crack, ghettos and foster homes. Indeed, if there is anything black people are familiar with, it is what. The question is therefore not what, the question is why? Why the haunting images of public executions of black men? Why does the protests of Black Lives Matter mirror that of the Civil Rights Movement when we should have moved passed this? How is it that what happened 50 years ago and DIDN’T work, will somehow work today? Have we not marched? Have we not protested? Have we not already sang freedom songs and willingly gone to prison? Why are black people at the bottom of every single ethnic group and society there is? Why have we been here for nearly 400 years and have yet to produce the economic standing of nations who have been here not even half that time? The question is not what, the question is why? Why are things always so black and white? Why is it always black against white?
In the book of Exodus there is a story. This story is about the Israelites. Pharaoh said to kill off the Hebrew boys for fear that the Hebrew population would grow and that they would overrun the Egyptian population (Ex 1:9-16). More so, they will do unto the Egyptians what the Egyptians have done unto them. Fears of uprisings among African Americans can be traced back to the days of Nat Turner. To think this fear has been lost or has gone away is not to have been alive. You see “Why?” has been around for centuries and on the tongues of every prophet. “Why?” is in the blood of every black man and woman walking this earth today. It is in every breath we take, and every move we make. “Why” is in our very DNA, our living souls breathing proof of the covenant we made so long ago. Do not tell black people that they should not be angry when our sons blood cries out to us from the ground. Instead, ask “Why?” Do not ask What, Ask Why because why is the key to everything. Why is understanding that what is happening out there is bigger than any man. “Why?” is understanding there is a reason black lives do not matter in this land. “Why” is understanding the story of Israel, the covenant they broke, and its connection to the black man and woman in America today. You see, “Why” is the key when you are the people of the book, when the police is Pharaoh, and America is Egypt.