Sunday, May 9, 2021

In Memoriam


It’s Mother’s Day today and all I can think about is Howard Cooper.  

Howard Cooper - -still a child, fifteen years old - - was hanged by a white mob outside the Towson jail in 1885. From yesterday’s story in the Baltimore Sun:

Cooper was convicted by an all-white jury that, within minutes, concluded he was guilty of raping Katie Gray, a white teenager, in an area then known as Rockland in Baltimore County. Neither Gray nor Cooper testified that Gray was raped. His sentence was death by hanging. He was lynched in the early hours of July 13, 1885, before his attorneys could appeal his conviction to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Today is Mother’s Day. 

Howard Cooper had a mother. Can you imagine how she felt? 

Yesterday Governor Hogan granted posthumous pardons to 34 Maryland lynching victims. They all had mothers, too. And so it goes,  all through America’s history and into the the present moment.

Eric Garner has a mother. She speaks to us in Alan Scott’s music video  “You Only See Me When I’m Gone”. (Watch the whole thing. It’s beautiful and heart rending.)

George Floyd called for his mother as Derek Chauvin crushed the life out of him on a Minneapolis street.

So many mothers. Enough mothers to form a movement. Mothers who had to bury children killed by members of law enforcement or those who claimed to represent it. 

It’s Mother’s Day today and there are mothers who will give their children, especially their sons, extra warnings and advice before they leave for home. As they might do on any given day, because this is the America and this is the way it was made: to consume and destroy Black human beings while pretending to provide justice for all.

If Black mothers in Howard County tell us that school is no place for police, they know. Their lived experience, passed down through generations of brutal injustice, speaks to a truth that we as white parents can’t even imagine. But maybe we could try. Maybe we could put ourselves in the shoes of Howard Cooper’s mother, or Eric Garner’s mother, or George Floyd’s mother...

Today is Mother’s Day. What does that mean if your child has been murdered by the police? 

For Howard Cooper’s mother, and for all of those bereaved mothers whose anguished wails run throughout history as deeply as the blood of their slain children, we should take some time today to contemplate their loss. And we should think about what we can do to make the world different.

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