This Is Us

Our Pain Is Not Your Classroom

It’s your wake-up call

Jennifer Williams
Human Parts
Published in
7 min readJun 13, 2020

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The author’s daughter, Olivia, visiting a memorial for Heather Heyer, a white woman who was murdered while protesting white supremacy in Charlottesville, Virginia.

I stopped talking one Friday afternoon when I was four years old. My mother followed me around all weekend, trying to make sense of what had happened to her loquacious girl with the light in her eyes.

On Sunday evening, the levees broke. Through tears, I explained that my preschool teacher had stood me, the only child of color, on a chair in the center of my classroom. My classmates formed a circle around me and were each allowed to explore my hair. Rough hands, careless hands, curious hands in my braided hair sprinkled with shiny beads.

I can’t bring myself to watch the murder of George Floyd. But I tried once and saw my father’s face smashed into the asphalt. George Floyd looked nothing like my father. But I saw my dad’s face, clear as day.

Maybe it’s because, when my father was in high school, a white teenager on a motorcycle smashed a bottle against his head and sped away. I see George Floyd. His life slipping away as the government casually kneels on his neck, hands in their pocket. I see Daddy. Bleeding and unconscious on the pavement. I can’t unsee it.

My husband, Carlin, and I love open houses. We stopped at a house with a beautiful view of the mountains a few years ago. The real estate agent showing the house asked us why we were looking at a house so grand.

“This house is for doctors and lawyers,” she said.

“Well, then we’re in the right place. That’s exactly who we are,” we replied, trying to shake off the insult.

“Good one!” she cackled. We left.

My high school boyfriend’s father was senselessly murdered by the police. In his moment of need, he was not kneed, but shot. Eleven times. His name would follow a hashtag if he had been killed today. My friend now has a beautiful family of his own. Yet, he’s navigating life and fatherhood without his father. He should have his father. His siblings, wife, and children deserve their patriarch.

My brother, Jesse, and his friend were stopped by the police not far from their college campus. Without providing a reason for the stop, the officer demanded to search the car for drugs or weapons. The cop couldn’t fathom…

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Jennifer Williams
Human Parts

Attorney and freelance writer. Joyfully married with three amazing daughters. Two here, one resting.