Women across the country who are raising Black sons have grown increasingly fearful for their kids’ lives as they grow up in an environment where police brutality against African-American men is a constant and one determined mother has decided to take action.
In a recent op-ed for The Root, Brooklyn native Depelsha McGruder describes the overwhelming sense of sadness and helplessness she felt after waking up to the news of Philando Castile’s murder at the hands of police, just one day after the equally disturbing police killing of Alton Sterling. Like many women in the Black community, Depelsha is a mother of two young boys. With her sons not even old enough to see a PG-13 movie yet at the ages four and seven, she can’t help but think of them immediately when reading about stories like the police shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was instantly gunned down by a police officer for waving around a toy gun in the park. Incidents like those serve as a chilling reminder for Depelsha and all mothers of Black sons that society begins to view their boys as “young men” at a much earlier age than other children.
“Studies show that black boys lose the perception of innocence in broader society around age 10,” she writes in her op-ed. “After that, people view them as overly aggressive and even dangerous. While other children have the privilege to be carefree, our children, particularly our boys, have the additional burden of not appearing too threatening—all of this long before they can even drive.” The emotional toll this realization can take on a mother is undeniably heavy, but it also motivated Depelsha to take action and do what she could to ensure the safety of her boys and others like them. Still on edge from the aftermath of the Philando Castile police killing, she gathered her thoughts and took her frustration to her laptop to create a Facebook group called “MOBB – Mothers Of Black Boys.” “I invited the first 30 friends who came to mind and started my first post by saying, “I am starting this group today because I don’t know what else to do.” I simply wanted the comfort and connection of other moms who would understand my particular plight. And, boy, did I get it! Within five minutes, 30 moms turned into 150. Within one hour, it was 500. Then 1,000; 2,000; 4,000; 7,000; 11,000; 15,000. By the time I went to bed that night, more than 21,000 moms from all over the country had joined the group.”
Today, the group is nearly 80,000 strong in members and now goes by the name of Mothers of Black Boys United. Together, the mothers have prayed, shared stories and leaned on each other for moral support all through the online group. Depelsha says the ladies have also begun working toward their ultimate goal of affecting changes in policing practices by putting pressure on state, local and federal legislators to put policies in place to ensure that those officers with no regard for Black lives are held accountable. “Unjustified killing of black men and boys by police officers without accountability must stop,” Depelsha writes. “Our sons will not be your reality show. They will not be a hashtag.”
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