A hug and the words “I love you” were all I got from my dad as he drove to work that day. Every morning we’d do this. We’d both say good-bye, and I’d watch him through the blinds as he pulled out in his patrol car. We all knew the risks. It’s hard enough for the white ones, but a black cop? They get the hate from both sides.
Uncle Tom. Sell out. Dirty pig. These were just some of the names he had been called. Traitor was the last.
I was at school in my AP Biology class when it happened. My phone started to go off, but Mrs. Smith doesn’t allow electronic devices, so I ignored it and figured I’d see what was going on once the bell rang. Unknown to me, I wouldn’t have a chance. An announcement over the loudspeaker said I needed to report to the office immediately. Worried now, I quickly packed my things and left class. Out of curiosity and paranoia, I checked my messages as I walked. Before I knew it, I was sprinting to the office.
I’d heard stories of things like this before on TV and the radio. I never thought I’d be a part of one.
On the drive to the hospital, all I could think of were the words “He’s been shot” glowing on my phone screen. What did that even mean? Was he shot in the foot or arm? Or was it more serious?
When I got to the hospital, my whole family was there. I looked straight at my mom. Tears were running down her face. That was when I knew.
Today I woke up. I put on a simple black dress bought just for the occasion and went downstairs. It was really quiet. There was nothing to say. My mom was trying to stay strong for me and my little brother, but I could see right past the fake smiles and makeup.
The car ride was quiet. Not even the radio to lighten the mood.
When we arrived, our whole extended family was there to greet us. One by one they said their condolences and gave us hugs. It wasn’t until I saw my uncle that I lost control of my emotions. They look so much alike, even though he is five years older than my dad. They even have the same smile. He wrapped me in his arms and let me use him as a human hanky for a while. Then the service started.
Everyone kept saying things I already knew. “He loved his family.” “He was devoted to his children.” “He didn’t deserve to die this way.” All of these things were true, which made me mad. Why did he have to be so good? Why didn’t his black life matter?
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.