I drove my (African American) neighbor on an errand yesterday. He was circumspect, gracious and quiet. His movements were slow and his voice was quiet. His mouth was full of yes ma’ams and no ma’ams. They tumbled out of him like apologies.
When I deposited him at the end of his errand, his sister was quick to thank me. Her gratitude punctuated thus: Miss Jennifer.
No one calls me Miss Jennifer. No one calls me ma’am. I don’t require that of my children. I’m not a dictator or drill sergeant.
The newest, most horrifying video scratched something in the back of my mind, pricked my memory of our errand. Philando Castille’s girlfriend responding to officer’s orders: Yes, sir. No, sir. Here was a woman, witness to death, present of mind to use words I’m not required to use.
There are too many words and none adequate. There is too much hurt and we’re out of balm. My friends, let us remember the words we don’t have to use, and the words others must always engage. Let us remember that other is not a threat, and let us hush. Let us hush our own trying to make sense word salad and let us listen. And mourn with our sisters and brothers.