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Harper’s

A LITANY FOR SURVIVAL. Having a black child in America has always been an act of faith. In the antebellum South, one in every two children born to an enslaved woman was stillborn or died within a year. If they lived, the babies were often sold away from their mothers. Black women in the Jim Crow era feared that their children would be sexually assaulted or lynched, and that the crimes would go unreported, unsolved, and unpunished. Still today, we worry that our children will not survive. The gap between infant mortality rates for black and white babies is wider now than it was during slavery. And the lives that follow hold many dangers. Images of black mothers mourning their murdered sons and daughters—from Mamie Till to Kadiatou Diallo to Samaria Rice and Tamika Palmer—are achingly familiar. George Floyd’s pleas for his mother in his final moments drove home what we already knew: despite our best efforts and fiercest love, we may not be able to keep our children safe.

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