Their Hashtags Are Trending Now. Will We Listen?

I am an Oklahoma woman. One small voice in the middle of the Bible Belt, in a city known as the Heart of Oklahoma. I used to believe this was as far as my voice could ever reach. Then, I found out I was pregnant.

Nine days before my daughter’s birth, my partner left and never returned. I could have succumbed to the pain and anger I felt, but I didn’t. I had my first child, moved homes, became a college student for the first time and discovered the meaning of being called “Mom.”

That’s when I realized my voice could reach further than I had imagined — it must.

My daughter is 1-year-old, and every day, I grow more fearful and worried about what her future might hold. If something happened to me today, who would stand up for my daughter tomorrow? Who would protect my child for me?

This week, I realized, no one will stand for my daughter unless she becomes another hashtag that goes viral.

#OKGirls

Yesterday, Stacy Wright and Danielle Brown led a walkout and protest to present the Norman High School administration with an urgent call-to-action and one very real message:

We will stand for our daughters because you didn’t.

While speaking with Stacy, the voice of the mothers, she emphasized their anger and shock at the lack of action taken by the teachers and other members of the administration.

She expressed that the #YesAllDaughters viral campaign is not about the way the Norman Police Department is handling the investigation; it’s about the school allowing the victims to be bullied. Bullied to the point where they no longer felt like they could return to the classroom.

By the end of the protest on Monday, three victims became four victims. Another one of our daughters became a victim of violence.


#Ferguson

On August 9, Lesley McSpadden lost her son, Michael Brown. After the decision to not indict police officer Darren Wilson who shot and killed Brown, McSpadden reacted to news that her son will not receive justice with the same intensity and emotion to the ruling.

As she screamed and wept in disbelief and anger, millions of us stood and raised our hands and voices along with her.

When her son hit the ground in a storm of unmerited violence and bullets, the people of Ferguson, MO learned that their voices can reach further than their hometown — they must.


#HandsUpDontShoot

On Saturday, the parents of Tamir Rice sat in the hospital with their 12-year-old son. They sat beside him, hoping and praying for God to spare his life, after he was shot two times in the chest by a police officer.

Tamir had responded to police with a childlike response; he put his hands down to his waistband and pulled out his fake gun. Even the officers of the department confirm it was never aimed at police.

On Sunday, those parents mourned the death of a son. Another one of our children becomes a victim to violence.


This is our culture.

Now, news networks are careful to specify “rookie cop” when telling the public how another one of our children lost his life. As if being a rookie makes it alright.

As if we won’t notice the black demographic that’s been targeted over and over, while we pretend the Civil Rights Movement erased bigotry, racism and hate from our nation.

Schools hide behind politics and professional agendas after failing to protect the students, while getting paid from the pockets of the parents of children they are obligated to protect. They blame the victims. They laugh at the students. They ignore the bullies and the rumors they hear in the hall.

Police officers gun down our children and then justify it:

Law enforcement personnel must frequently make split-second and difficult decisions.

You’re damn right, we’re angry!

So, how do we respond?


They’re Our Children!

Violence is trending, and there’s no hashtag to say it, so allow me.

We have a culture of violence and a tolerance of injustice.

We spend a lot of time acknowledging gender roles and fighting for rights: “Stop the violence against women!” But, we forget our children are boys and girls. Children are children.

When one child suffers, as parents who have held the same small hands and loved the same small hearts, we should be front and center when it comes to speaking out against any and all violence.

Black or white, boy or girl, teen or toddler, well-behaved or not, every child depends on our voice. We are the parents.

We’ve been so busy sticking to one cause or side for so long when it comes to the subject of domestic violence, we’ve neglected to see the bigger picture. We have tunnel vision when it comes to the stats.

Domestic violence affects 12.7 million people each year — men, women and children, alike. Violence doesn’t discriminate; it has no lines. The corruption is not in the gender, it is in the people.

It’s time for men and women to drop their battle signs and hold up a new one:

NO MORE CHILDREN. NO MORE VICTIMS. WE ARE PARENTS.

I stopped supporting the fight to end violence against women. It’s time to end violence against all people.

I’m Okay

“I’m okay” is my response to every single “how are you?” If it’s a good day, you might get:

I’m good, darling. I’m always good here.

How are you?

If you want to know the truth, my level of concern when asking is somewhat void and misleading. I’d feel selfish in telling you that, but yours is exactly the same. It’s true.

It’s not that I don’t care. I’m not heartless. It’s that life is hard enough just figuring my own shit out. How am I supposed to help someone else when I can’t even make it through my morning routine of single mom madness or my fourth round of English Literature.

But that is not what the world wants to hear. What do they truly want to hear?

I’m okay.

Let’s be honest. We don’t even really care what comes after that “how are you?” It’s simply a formality we’ve grown accustomed to asking. Why?

Because if we started actually caring about the response, we’d be required to invest of ourselves and our own emotions. We’d be required to feel, relate and connect. We’d be required to think about the pain of someone else.

Let’s face it. We have our lives on the line. We have our own stresses.

While one friend is complaining of the cat wrecking the house and their children painting the walls, and another friend is rehashing that same fight with the spouse that we’ve heard a million times now, we have our own shit to sort out! We hardly have the time to care about their seemingly small stresses.

So, if the world could, please, remember this response. We’ll all continue to make love to Oblivion like she’s our fuck buddy of choice and whore for the day.

Say it with me:

“I’m okay.”

We are always okay, until shit hits the fan, real life kicks our ass, and we’re face first in our own broken pieces.

So, I was okay when I found out that I was carrying a child I’d been told I would never have. I was okay when my partner left nine days before my daughter was born. I was okay as I gave birth alone and scared out of my mind.

Yes, always okay here.

I was okay when I faced the world with a smile, holding a child I was still learning to love. I was okay being told I was sick just months later. I’m okay as I face that alone.

I’m okay.

I was okay with every hit, bruise and mark, and each voice and hand raised, when I was a child. I was okay when I stepped over my mother and I was okay as I heard her scream every night. I was okay when my sisters left me to live there alone.

It’s okay.”

I was okay every step of way.

I was okay after violent sexual assault, too. I became it and I demonstrated it as I repeated “I’m okay,” two days straight afterwards.

Yes . . . I’m always okay here.

Because “I’m okay” is what the world wants to hear.


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Defining The Line Between Discipline & Abuse

Fifty-Six

Fifty-six was the amount of time that I was able to stomach the altercation that transpired between Ray Rice and his fiancé, Janay. As I sat and watched the video on TMZ, I wasn’t shocked that another story of domestic abuse made the news.

In just twenty-seven seconds, Ray rendered her unconscious as he delivered one swift, left hook, punch to her face. She collapsed against the elevator rail and slid down to the floor. She didn’t move.

I should have stopped watching then, but I didn’t.

I continued to watch.

He pulled her lifeless body across the elevator and towards the door, with one shoe missing and her feet dragging behind her. Then, he dropped her face-first on the floor with a thud. I stopped watching. I was enraged!

I was angry for every victim across the nation who has seen the hand of abuse. I was angry at TMZ for exploiting the video. I was angry at Janay Rice for marrying him a month later on March 28. I was angry that she publicly lashed out towards his team and the media via Instagram, and sent the message to every child in the world that violence and abuse are “what true love is.”

Four.

Four is the age of Adrian Peterson’s son, whose body has been at the receiving end of a tree limb, a hand, and a belt, in just the four short years that he’s been alive.

I should have known better than to go researching the latest and hottest NFL trending topic on Twitter, but still, I began scrolling.

Tears filled my eyes before I even started typing. My heart was racing with anger. I knew not to read too many articles and to know when enough was enough. I was prepared, this time, I thought.

I continued to read and I continued to watch.

When I came across a few short lines, among millions of words, that left me fuming and speechless with fury, I wasn’t surprised. As he spoke with police, Peterson’s son said,

Daddy Peterson hit me on my face. There are a lot of belts in Daddy’s closet.

Then, he explains to his mother that Peterson “liked switches and belts” and has a “whipping room.”

I was enraged.

Yesterday, my daughter slipped and fell on the bathroom floor. Today, I am still upset at myself for not being more proactive in protecting her. That’s my job as her mom.

I cannot fathom disciplining my child in such a way that bruises, welts, and cuts, are left on her body. I would never intentionally inflict pain upon her at all.

To Adrian Peterson, though, that’s just the way of life. 

So, the NFL waited a day to announce their commencement with former White House official, Cynthia C. Hogan, until one day after Peterson delivered his preapproved and professionally articulated statement.

A strategic move in keeping a lid on the latest domestic violence hype and Charles Barkley helped defend a culture of abuse claiming,

Whipping — we do that all the time!

Making sure to allude that it’s not a big deal, but it is. 

5.3 Million

The average number of men, women, and children, who will remain or become victims of abuse or neglect by the end of this year is 5.3 million.

According to the US Department of Justice, 1,300,000 women and 835,000 men become victims of physical assault at the hands of their own lovers annually. Black women suffering at a rate of 35 percent higher than white women.

An estimated 686,000 children, in 2012, according to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, had newly confirmed counts of neglect or abuse — 80 percent of them at the hands of their own mothers or fathers.

Approximately 3 million reports are made annually, which include more than 6 million children.

But we all just continue to watch.

Meanwhile, CBS News legal analyst Rikki Klieman, an “expert” defines the line between discipline and abuse as a gray blur?!

We blame our upbringing and culture while pointing our fingers at the NFL and the law for what our own hands are doing.

There is a line.

If you are disciplining your child, you are reinforcing positive behaviors and instilling respect. When you cross the line of abuse, you’re not only hurting your children, you are teaching them that it is acceptable and natural to hurt other people.

All states’ laws permit the use of ‘reasonable’ corporal punishment; simultaneously, they all prohibit nonaccidentally inflicted serious injury. —Doriane Lambelet Coleman et al.

If hitting our children results in a culture of violence and long-term disorders due to trauma (e.g. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, racing thoughts, severe anxiety, aggressiveness, relationship issues, suicidal ideation, etc.), those are serious injuries.

If you took your fist and you punched it into the wall would it hurt you? Would you feel it? Yes. If you take a tree limb, belt or wooden spoon, and hit the wall as hard as you could would it hurt you? Would you feel it? No.

When your hands are hurting your child is bleeding and bruised— that is abuse.

That is the line.

As a parent, you draw the line and you do not cross it because you love and do not want to hurt your child.

One

One famous NFL player had to have a video go viral to get our attention. One is the number of people it takes to speak out and bring attention to important causes.

One is the age of my only daughter and the number of times I held her in my arms before I knew that I would fight to no end to protect her beyond measure for the rest of my life.

There is something to be said of our nation when more than 5 million of our own citizens are being abused and neglected, and we do nothing to rise together and change it.

That is until it’s the beginning of the football season and our favorite players start missing from the field.