Wednesday, May 24, 2017
Being a mother is a hard job, and being a black mom, especially a single one, is a soul-grinding, difficult job. We get all the challenges of parenting solo plus the systematic oppression and daily struggle of navigating life through a racist society for ourselves and our children. Respectability in parenting is not handed out to black single moms, doubly so if we are young. There are no Claire Huxtables in pop culture who represent hard-working, struggling single black moms.
No matter what we do, it isn't right. If we don't have kids, it must be because no one wants us. If we do have kids, we're ruining the community with all the "thugs" we're adding to Jackson. If we're single and parenting, our every move is questioned: "Her hair and nails are done, but there's dirt on her child's shoe?"
I can't speak for Kingston Frazier's mama, but I know what it's like to be a black single mama who's judged because your child was a victim of a crime. I also know what it's like to pull into a store late at night with a sleeping kid or two and need to run in and out for medicine or breakfast in a few hours. I can't say I wouldn't have pulled up to Kroger and seen that deputy—the same deputy Kroger pays to not only guard the store but to signal to shoppers that "you are safe here," I might add—outside and did the same.
When Kingston Frazier went missing, I'll be the first to admit I had questions. Years of watching crime documentaries have taught me to be suspicious of families when children disappear. I vividly remember when Susan Smith's kids went "missing."
The Internet rumors took off fast around Kingston's case. However, it was quickly clear that he didn't accidentally shoot himself, nor did his family kill him. Little boys don't accidentally shoot themselves multiple times. Three young men apparently stole his mother's car and chose to shoot him. This crime is the tragedy it appears to be. That is horrible, and it doesn't seem like it should be that simple. It doesn't make sense, and people want something that makes more sense. Tragedies don't make sense. It also doesn't make sense to demonize and spread lies about a bereaved mama.
It doesn't make sense that there are people out here saying that Ebony Archie deserves to go to jail for leaving a sleeping child in the car, as many of us have. Her son isn't even buried, yet. This woman is having to go through the agonizing horror of planning her 6-year-old son's funeral, and all some people can think of doing is demonizing what a "bad" black mom she is in their eyes. All people have a fundamental human right to reproductive autonomy, including the right to parent—Ebony Archie, too. Included in that is the right to make mistakes and have accidents. All parents do, and if we didn't, we would never raise amazing humans. If we as parents and caregivers are all honest, we have all done something on some day that endangered our child, whether it was driving them around without a seat belt, letting them ride a bike without a helmet or letting them be in a home with a gun. All three of those actions carry greater risks of death than a 6-year-old sleeping in a car—at no risk of overheating, I might add.
I don't know how anyone can see the picture of Ebony Archie having to be carried after falling out from hearing about her son's death and say she deserves a greater burden than the one she already has. She doesn't deserve to have a dead son. She will replay what she could have done differently in her mind for years to come until hopefully she realizes that we don't control bad people. Three craven people didn't have a right to kill Kingston Frazier because he was sleeping in that car alone, and his mother doesn't and shouldn't carry the burden for their crime, ever. Kingston is gone, and as we memorialize that dear baby, let's wrap our support around his mama and family as they seek justice for him.
Laurie Bertram Roberts is a grassroots reproductive-justice activist, full spectrum doula and writer based in Jackson. She is the co-founder and executive director of the Mississippi Reproductive Freedom Fund.