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Gasping for Air: Nicole Webb to her Mother

Nicole Webb

Letter from Nicole Webb (pictured)

 Dear Mommy,

I want to start this letter by saying, “Thank You.”

I know when you started working as a junior police cadet back in college, you had no idea of the journey it would bring—no idea September 11, 2001 would be a day forever embedded into your mind. No idea the names Sean Bell and Eric Garner would forever be names that you hear right before you go to sleep at night. No idea that the happenings of your career would ever affect you, let alone your family.

But for your sacrifice, your selflessness, your dignity, your fight, your strive to make this world a better place—to make our city a better place—I thank you, Mommy.

I’m not going to lie to you, though—being the daughter of an NYPD member is hard sometimes. We’re currently living in an era that history has deemed is “post-racial" because we have a black man living in the White House, but there’s nothing post-racial about cops killing our black men and women.

This past June, the number 550 had been released in a nation-wide statistics report. Up to that point, 75 people had been killed in that month alone; many of those people were unarmed and/or mentally ill. Since then, Sandra Bland, Gilbert Flores, Zachary Hammond, a white teen, and so many other uncovered names. All those people were killed specifically by police officers—some state police, city police, county police, even traffic cops.

I remember when Trayvon Martin’s story had first hit Lincoln University’s campus back when I was just a freshman in undergrad. At the time, “police brutality” wasn’t so much a social-injustice phenomenon. We had the Oscar Grant shooting in Oakland, Calif., and that hurt, but there was a disconnect. When situations like these do not occur in our own backyards, we tend to see them as just another news story. New York did not rally for Oscar; we did not seek justice for him. The Black Lives Matter movement had yet to be curated, and to be honest, at the time, I just knew his story would no longer matter to the nation because it seemed to be “just another news story.” Sure more coverage happened when the officers involved in Oscar’s death were let free, but his story once again died out … until Trayvon.

Again, I thought the story would eventually die out. This time, I thought that Travyon would get justice and the world would go back to normal.

That never happened.

Trayvon never received justice, rallies across the nation occurred, the Black Lives Matter organization was becoming more of a movement, and the list of names from our nation’s past of black men and women killed at the hand of white officers began to ring in our ears nightly. Sean Bell. Oscar Grant. Amadou Diallo. Their blood reappearing on our nation’s guilty hands; their killers allowed to be free and still protected by the law.

The next year it was Jordan Davis—a black teen also from Florida, who was shot and killed by a white man claiming that the teen and his friends were blasting their music too loudly at a local gas station. Justice was received for both Jordan and his friends, whose lives were put in danger. Michael Dunn received life in prison, but Michael Dunn was not a white police officer. Michael Dunn wasn’t protected by a blue uniform and a badge, but something tells me that had he been, Dunn might have been let free and Jordan Davis wouldn't have received justice.

Just like with Eric Garner.

Eric Garner’s death was when all of this came into perspective for me, because it happened in our very own backyard—Staten Island, N.Y., just over the bridge.

I was angry. Blacks and whites, Asians and Latinos, gathered together, rallied together, marched and protested. But still the officer responsible for the chokehold that killed Garner was let free, despite that performing a chokehold in any arrest is against the code of conduct for the New York Police Department.

And the list continues with men and women like Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and Walter Scott in South Carolina.

Mommy, I can’t help but to fear for my life, too. Every time I’m driving, I think of Sandra Bland when I forget to put my turn signals on—afraid that if I don’t, a cop may pull me over and shoot me because I’m black.

I fear for my cousins, my friends—all black men who may be stereotyped and hated against because of their race.

Mommy, I’m afraid to bring a black son into this world—afraid that he’ll be playing on a playground one day, naïve and juvenile, unaware of the harsh ideologies and prejudices of this country, and justify its right to kill him for playing with a toy gun like they did Tamir Rice.

And then I have you, my mother, the woman that gave me life—a woman who has sacrificed so much and has put her life on the line in her line of duty—and I think of Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, two of your fallen colleagues that you’d corrected once or twice before as one of their lieutenants. I think they easily could have been you and I could have easily been their families. I recollect back to 9/11 when I hadn’t seen you for months because you were assigned to Ground Zero and I was scared; I was terrified that I’d never see you again. I had nightmares every day that my mom wasn’t coming home. I think about how grateful I am that God has kept you and protected you. I think about how fortunate I am to have such a hero for a mother … but I still have reservations, Mommy.

I know you’ve taught me that not all cops are bad and that not all white cops are bad; I’ve met some of your colleagues who have pledged their lives to ensure the safety of not just their own but ours, too. And when emergencies happen, there’s no doubt that it’s been instinctively programmed within us all to call 911. Police are the first ones we call and are in search for when something happens, yet we don’t trust them.

Sometimes I wonder … I wonder what would life be like if we’d all learn that race is really a figment of our imagination; a scheme of the ego and a falsified perception we’re taught because we, in fact, fear that there’s a possibility that every human being on the face of this planet is indeed EQUAL; same color blood, almost identical DNA, one race—HUMAN.

What if, Mommy?

I know our projected beliefs and arguments on humanity’s solution towards these matters may be a little different. You teach non-biases in police training, and I rally for civilian checks and balances of our local police departments, and whites cops handling white communities and vice versa. But I’m sure we both dream of the same—LOVE and EQUALITY. For us to all see BlackWhiteAsianLatinoNativeAmerican, all the same.

I may stand and rally against police misconduct and brutality, and you may be the lieutenant that calls to order a troop of your own to stand against the picket line, but somewhere deep down, I know we’re both rallying for the same thing—true Liberty and Justice for ALL.

I Love You, Mommy. Thank you.

Nic

Dr. King wants the same thing I want—Freedom

Nicole Webb is a contributing Entertainment and Culture writer for Tha Produce Section and a graduate student at American University, studying Broadcast Journalism and Public Affairs, with aspirations of becoming a network television producer. For more information, visit thenicolewebb.com