Passionate About the Community
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I Can’t Calm Down. I Won’t Get Over It.

He’s four years old. And he is already the size of a six or seven year old—according to clothing manufacturers, anyway. Strangers have always had unrealistic expectations for him based on his size. They expect more from him based on how big he is.

Right now, white strangers stop me to tell me that he’s adorable in his Monsters University sweatshirt. But I worry that these same strangers—or other white strangers like them—might not consider my son so sweet when he’s wearing a hoodie in high school. I wonder and I worry about the expectations that they will have for him then. Because I know that he’s going to be well above six feet tall when he’s done growing, and he will easily look like a young black man by high school.

He will be big. And he will be black.

blacklivesmatter black boy Nashville parenting

That is reason enough to feel worried about his future in America today. But that’s not all; my son has a disability—the kind that you can’t tell just by looking at him—the very kind that could end up getting him killed by the wrong police officer. My son has a language disorder—a receptive and expressive one. He doesn’t always understand what is being said to him, but he is expressive enough that you might think that he does. I don’t know what his disability will look like as he grows older. I don’t know how his language will—or won’t—develop. Every single time another black person is killed for resisting arrest, I am fearful for the future of my black son with an invisible disability.

If he were white, would I still worry today that he might one day be shot for resisting arrest?

I worry that he might be shot because he will not understand why he is being racially profiled. He will not understand that he is being stopped or arrested just because he is big and black and “looks the part.” He will not understand that.

So when my black son gets stopped in the street for playing with the same nerf guns as his white cousins, selling CDs, buying skittles, or riding in a car with too many friends who are also not white—

Will he resist?
Will he have a meltdown and be considered a threat?
Will his disability look like non-compliance when he can’t understand the instructions or questions?

To my white friends and white strangers who are right now arguing that the murder of any one of these black men is a justifiable consequence of their own actions or reactions, I beg of you—

Will my son’s disability one day justify his own death?
Will his size and skin color be held against someone else’s expectations and justify their fear-based actions?
Have you ever thought of your child’s future and worried they they might end up being a hashtag?
When you see blue lights behind you, have you ever worried for your own safety?

I worry this for my son.

Every. Single. Time. EVERY time that another black person is killed by a cop, I worry.
But I’ve never once worried it for my husband or myself. Not one single time. That’s white privilege and a sign of systemic racism.

I can’t stay calm or quiet when I feel like I’m drowning in a sea of white denial, white accusations, and white justifications for black boys’ and black mens’ funerals.

The conversation has to change.

Please consider keeping your arguments and accusations to yourself for a moment and just listen to the pain and fear of a people who feel constantly at risk. Another black person killed by a cop feels like a personal invitation to another life and death situation for all black people. It is not just another opportunity for an opinion about what “really happened” like it is for most white people.

So, please. Stop playing devil’s advocate with the details. Instead, maybe pray for more compassion. As a friend beautifully suggested:

“You can jump to compassion without jumping to conclusions. Jesus did it all the time. It is the ministry of empathy, and it is disconcertingly and disproportionately absent from a large sector of the public discourse.” —Grant Jenkins

We need to stop arguing with each other and with people of color about whether or not a black man’s death was justified, but do not read that as an invitation or excuse for silence. I am begging my white friends to speak out. By all means, be part of the conversation. Let’s talk about the systemic racism that likely led us to another black funeral, the racial profiling that exists in Stop and Frisk Laws, the overt and hidden prejudice of middle-class white men in power who have never had a relationship with a person of color, the school to prison pipeline, Mandatory Sentencing Laws, generational poverty stemming from the continued fallout of the Jim Crow Laws.

Will my son be a hashtag someday?

I can’t calm down. I won’t get over it.

Let’s talk about how and why #BlackLivesMatter.

Tiffany Acuff FamilyTiffany and her husband Will moved to Nashville in 2007. They are the co-founders of a non-profit called Corner To Corner that exists to love and serve the McFerrin Park community of East Nashville. They have two beautiful children through adoption—Raylan (4) and Penelope (2 months). 

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2 Responses to I Can’t Calm Down. I Won’t Get Over It.

  1. Deidra July 11, 2016 at 3:15 pm #

    I wish you didn’t have those fears, Tiffany.

    As the wife of a white police officer who works in a predominately African American community in Nashville, I sympathize with your feelings. As I watch the footage on TV and hear the conversations of non-police friends, I can see why you feel this way. And I truly, truly wish you didn’t fear the things you fear.

    However, I will admit the whole conversation becomes incredibly confusing and disheartening when compared to the reality of the life my husband lives at work every evening. Night after night, call after call, my husband shows up to help people, most of whom have a different skin color than he has. He laughs with them; he cries with them; he does his best to problem-solve for them. He gives them his lunch when they’re hungry. He gives them his jacket when they’re cold. He gets injured intervening on their behalf. He struggles to find words to console the families who’ve had sons and daughters killed by street violence. He has a heart of gold (which is the very reason he and most others got into police work to begin with), and he works hand in hand with the black community every single day to try and bring stability and peace to their lives.

    However, life isn’t always pretty. And when you brush away all the speculation and assumption we see on our Facebook feeds, you are left with this: raw life…raw, messy and sometimes gosh-darn ugly life. Answers aren’t always clear. The other end of a 911 call is never rainbows and butterflies. More often than not, it looks a lot more like hell on earth. And when crap hits the fan, it never lands in a neat pile in the toilet. I wish life always worked out perfectly, but I think all of us who have lived for very long know that perfection is the exception, not the rule.

    I wish we lived in a world where violence didn’t exist. I wish I never had to see another black man shot to death on the news. I wish all of our officers could see the future so they would never have to have what we later find out to be unsubstantiated fear. I wish mistakes never happened. I wish we never suffered from poor judgment. I wish we were all able to work out our differences with dialogue. I wish…I wish…I wish. I wish you could see things from my family’s perspective. I wish you could see things from the perspective of a police officer.

    My husband recently pulled a lady over who was driving at night without her headlights on. When he walked up to her window, he saw an elderly black woman visibly shaking in fear. He was taken aback by that. He asked if she was okay and what was the matter. She said she was afraid for her life. She was afraid he, my husband, was going to kill her. Now if you know my husband, and if you know hundreds upon hundreds of officers like I do, you would understand why that is such an incomprehensible fear to have. In response, he kindly assured her she was safe. He just wanted to let her know her headlights weren’t on. And then he went on to ask her, “Ma’am, have you ever been hurt by an officer…or harassed…or threatened in any way? Because if you have, we need to report it immediately.” She said, “No, I’ve just been watching the TV, and I’m so scared.”

    I know the fear is real. I know many black people in our country feel marginalized. I fully acknowledge that, and I am so sorry your family lives within that struggle.

    However, at the end of the day, the answer is dialogue, not blame. We pass blame in this country like a hot potato, and it just keeps going around and around, accomplishing nothing. Instead, the next time we catch that potato, may we let the heat sink in. Let it draw out our weaknesses and burn out our faults. Let it purify and humble us. Let it give us understanding and compassion for those who come before us and after us. Let it remind us that we are not the only ones who feel pain. Let us focus on ourselves and what we can do to change, rather than passing the potato and passing the hurt.

    I wish you well, and I’m sorry for the burden you are bearing. I’m sorry for the millions of people who don’t understand where you are coming from. I’m sorry for their insensitivity. I hope one day you will find peace.


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