The Trauma of Racial Violence in Frederick Douglass’s America

By Kay Wright Lewis | Black Perspectives

After the police officer shot her mother’s fiancé seven times at close range, the little girl jumped out of the back seat of the car and ran for her life. Another police officer caught her in flight and put her into his patrol car. Her mother, who also witnessed the event, was handcuffed and also put into the same car. At some point the four-year-old, with great anxiety in her voice and tears streaming down her face, told her, “Mom please stop the cussin’ and screaming because I don’t want you to get shooted!” Her mother turned to her daughter and said, “Okay. Give me a kiss.” Reaching out with both her little arms, she tried to console her mother. “I can keep you safe,” she said. “That’s okay,” the mother responded, “I got it.” The daughter nodded okay, and then perhaps out of relief, began to sob softly. Her mother instructed her to lean closer and said in barely a whisper, “I can’t believe they just did that.” The daughter reached in to hug her mom again, only this time letting out deep, heart-wrenching sobs. The mother put her head down on the little girl’s shoulder in an attempt to console her. But out of frustration that she could not embrace her weeping child because her arms were handcuffed behind her back, she yelled out, “Damn, there’s no way I can take these b****es off?” The daughter immediately jumped back and screamed, “No! Please, no, I don’t want you to get shooted!” The mother rocked as if in pain. “They’re not going to shoot me, okay? I’m already in handcuffs.” The child, still sobbing, told her mother, “Don’t take them off. Do not take them off!” She looked out the window at the police, and then leaned back in the seat and cried, “I wish this town was safer!” And now wailing uncontrollably she pleaded, “I don’t want it to be like this anymore!” With the utmost gentleness the mother suggested, “tell that to the police, okay?”

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