Author Terreece M. Clarke discusses the painful realities of raising her family in 2020.

I sat staring at the blinking cursor on a random form … waiting for me to enter data for the day.

Instead I wrote, “I need a mental health break.”

I closed my laptop, went to the couch and just sat there. It was four days after George Floyd was killed at the hands of police. And I was fed up with trying to make myself work as expected.

How is your family doing right now?

Depending on the day, I loathe this question. We are in the middle of a pandemic where the Black community continues to be hit hard. It’s not a question of if you know someone who has died of COVID-19, it’s more like who died this week.

Each day I learn of someone attempting to weaponize law enforcement against Black Americans doing the most mundane of life’s activities. Every week I brace for another video of brutality.

How are we doing? Answering demands I splay open my chest and bleed out Black pain for consumption.

Sometimes talking about race is too abstract, too overwhelming, too big. So, when I speak about my experience as a Black American, I like to break it down to places and neighborhoods people know.

I talk about being a Black mother and wife when my husband drives at night, through a suburb like Dublin or Upper Arlington or to our kids’ school in Bexley.

I share that in a shameful display of respectability politics, I plaster magnets on the back of our car in an effort to humanize the people I love to those who see them as “fitting the description.” Maybe then when they are pulled over, they’ll have a greater chance of surviving the encounter.

When is the last time you felt compelled to preemptively justify your existence in a particular space?

I share how during a medical emergency, my husband and I instinctively put back on our conservative business attire while waiting on the ambulance to come for our son because we knew from experience that we, and our concerns, would be taken more seriously at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

Think back to the last time you worried about perception and wardrobe during an emergency.

Being Black in Cbus is making sure my children know:

Being Black is not the problem. White supremacy is. Talking about race is intrinsic to who we are. We don’t have the option to wait until the mythical “right time.” How to identify bias, discrimination and micro-aggressions. Their history is not an elective, but interwoven into the fabric of this country like everyone else’s. Whatever form of activism they choose, we will be there to support them. We will always help them navigate the pressure to juggle their education while advocating against injustice, stereotypes and racism IN the classroom.

We make the heartbreaking call to steal their innocence by giving them “the talk” to keep them alive. And we take immeasurable joy in strategically affirming them in every way, from their intelligence, to their abilities, to their looks, to their beautiful humanity, because they live in a world that too often tells them the opposite.

My experiences are not unique. They are common to Columbus, Upper Arlington, Worthington, Dublin. None of this is new.

 As I start the process of stitching myself back together, I often hear: “I’m sorry and I hear you.” My reply has stopped being “thank you.” Now I say, “Great. What are you going to do about it?”

Terreece M. Clarke is a Columbus author and digital marketing consultant. She and her husband, David Clarke, have three children.

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