My 9 year old son has one of the most infectious smiles that you’ve ever seen. My husband always jokes and says that when he walks into a room everyone sees sunshine and glitter. He is the bright spot on a gloomy day that makes you appreciate everything that life has to offer. Looking at him so innocent and sincere, it is hard to imagine someone viewing him as a threat to their life. But unfortunately, for my brown skinned baby, that is the reality that I face.
Life lessons are learned best when they are drastic and dramatic. The loss of a loved one to Cancer, Murder, or Vehicular Homicide is far more intense than losing a loved one to old age. Unfortunately, for our fast paced society, we often don’t address such dramatic tragedies until it’s far too late. Once an issue hits home we are all up in arms over the devastation that we feel. We want everyone to know about our pain and suffering; and anger from those who don’t empathize with us takes over our psyche. Many of us who carry that anger around do not vote, do not watch the news, and do not share messages of progressive hope and change. Yet we holler and scream when we hurt, and we expect everyone to listen. It’s like the little boy who cried wolf….always claiming that something is about to happen, when in reality he is simply yanking our chain. This seems to be the pattern for voting and community activism these days. Someone is always “talking” about what they are going to do, yet MIA come election time.
The Trayvon Martin case has rocked me to the core. It is hard for me as a mother of two boys to imagine someone killing my babies in cold blood. Every human being has a story, and all too often we judge people based on their outer core. None of us knew Trayvon personally, but now that he is a household name I can only imagine the possibilities of who he was. I can only imagine the types of things that made him smile, or his favorite meal made by his mother. I can imagine his favorite memories of growing up playing sports. I can visually see a smile come across his face when playing a game of hide and seek with his little brother. And then I imagine a more grown up Trayvon; one who works at the local bank, or the high school football coach who mentors kids after school. I can only imagine all the things he COULD have been, and then feel a tear stream down my face when I realize that none of these possibilities will ever be. Even more disheartening is the idea that this MURDER could have been racially motivated. George Zimmerman didn’t look at the stranger he saw walking down the street and see him as a living, breathing human being with dreams, hopes, and emotions. He saw him as a threat and a walking target. He glanced at the outer surface of Trayvon and made a judgment on who he was on the inside. He was fixated on what he believed to be true simply because of how someone looked.
Interestingly enough, pop culture seems to be the driving force with today’s generation. While so-called ‘Urban Gear’ used to be considered “a Black thing”, it is now simply “a cool thing”. I never thought I would see the day when a white suburban teen would have millions of pictures all over the internet with his jeans sagging and a hoodie draped over his head, but I’ll be damned if Justin Bieber isn’t establishing himself as the poster child for Roc-a-Wear. Funny though, I don’t think anyone would ever accost the Biebs for being in the “wrong neighborhood”, or wrongly assume he was “up to no good, on drugs or something” when all he wanted was a pack of Skittles. I doubt that would happen, because after all the Biebs is not a ‘Coon’. We have to learn to see things objectively, and put ourselves in other people’s shoes. I am very well aware of the cultural bias of the world we live in, so I make it known to my boys all the time. They are probably tired of me preaching about the things they “might” encounter, but it is a reality that we must face. As a mother, I have to make sure that my boys are prepared. They have a closet full of hoodies from Old Navy that they rock while walking down the street to hang with their friends. We live in a small suburban neighborhood where everyone knows each other, but what will become of them when they venture out into unknown territory? Do I tell my boys to stop dressing a certain way simply because their skin is a tad bit darker than their friends who are wearing the same exact clothes? Do I make them go out in a 3 piece suit when they go ride their bikes or walk to the store? Exactly what do you suggest I do as a mother to two brown boys? I know one thing that I will NOT do-subject my boys to the effects of their mother not voting for things that she believes in. Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law needs to be looked over with a fine toothed comb. We also need to look at our local and state laws with a fine toothed comb before another Trayvon Martin case hits the news. We need to educate one another and work on the power of solidarity and empathy in our local communities. And we need not wait until another youth is wrongly accused of being “up to no good” and another person continues to walk around with the absence of an empathetic heart. A mother has lost her child, and a person has to live with the haunting screams that he heard when he killed someone…Neither person should live with that, and none of us should turn a blind eye.