#JusticeForTrayvonPosted: July 14, 2013 Filed under: advocacy | Tags: #JusticeForTrayvon, GeorgeZimmerman, racism, Stand-your-ground law, Trayvon Martin 6 Comments
Sometime during my teens, my dad sat me down and we had The Talk. I thought it was ridiculous. It took all my might to sit still and listen. It caused me actual, physical pain. I was in high school. There was some eye rolling.
Not everyone may immediately understand what “talk” to which I’m referring. It isn’t what you are thinking. It is the racism talk. And trust me, it goes on in millions of households all across this country.
For many, The Talk is just part of parenting. This is how to change a flat tire. This is how to fill out a DMV form. This is how to deal with racist bigots. The sad fact is that our world is hostile to racial minorities. My father knew that.
But this post is not about my experience. It is about a single candid moment that my father had during that talk.
“Well, at least no one will think you’re dangerous, like black people.”
In reading the commentary after a Florida jury failed to convict George Zimmerman of a single criminal charge, my father’s words ring in my ears.
Sadly, being black in this country means existing behind a dark-skinned veil of presumed menace. As much as I hated it, I knew even then that there was some truth to what he said. Men might objectify me as exotic, people may question my right to live in this country, I may be accused of stealing jobs from white America, the list goes on… but I will not be presumed dangerous by the darkness of my skin.
I have read the argument that Trayvon Martin’s death cannot be racially motivated because George Zimmerman is a different shade of brown (let’s not go into the whole “white Hispanic” thing now, but you can read about it here and here). This argument is wrong. Being a subtler shade of brown does not protect you from the legacy of white supremacy in this country. Its poison runs deep.
My heart is breaking for Trayvon Martin’s family. They probably had The Talk. I can’t imagine they were not keenly aware of what it meant to raise a young black man today. Still, one day, their son went out and couldn’t come back. Trayvon Martin did not survive our hostile world.
Like the rest of the country, I will never know what happened, but I could believe Zimmerman made a fatal mistake in judgement. I cannot believe that his mistake was innocent. His mistake was informed by the deep vein of racism that runs through this country’s history. George Zimmerman may not go to prison, but he will live in a prison of his own creation. Alex Fraser said it best:
Dear George Zimmerman,
For the rest of your life you are now going to feel what its like to be a black man in America.
You will feel people stare at you. Judging you for what you think are unfair reasons. You will lose out on getting jobs for something you feel is outside of your control. You will believe yourself to be an upstanding citizen and wonder why people choose to not see that.
People will cross the street when they see you coming. They will call you hurtful names. It will drive you so insane some days that you’ll want to scream at the top of your lungs. But you will have to wake up the next day, put on firm look and push through life.
I bet you never thought that by shooting a black male you’d end up inheriting all of his struggles.
Enjoy your “freedom.”
A black male who could’ve been Trayvon Martin
What you can do:
- Sign the NAACP petition calling for a civil rights investigation.
- If you live in a state that has a “Stand Your Ground” law, contact your elected officials, tell them you want the law abolished. Tell them that these laws are applied with bias and inconsistency, and are connected with an increase in homicides.
Thank you, Jisun.
Reading your childhood experience, I was reminded of a chapter I read in a book I think all parents should read, Nurture Shock. The chapter on race pointed out that WLs (white liberals, like me) overwhelmingly seek to have their children be “race-blind” but go about it in a way that guarantees the opposite result. We point out that girls can do anything job boys can do, but we don’t point out that people of other colors are also equally human. Instead, we say nothing, the thinking being that we shouldn’t point out the difference, lest children suddenly see the differences (skin, hair, eyes) themselves where they weren’t previously (except that they are).
However, the authors write, it is clear that in families of color, they are having The Talk, they must have The Talk, because it’s a daily reality for families of color. Sometimes violently so.
Poet Alberto Rios, son of a man from Chiapas, Mexico and a woman from England, was always told by his father to never, ever go to Texas. After his first trip there as a young man, Rios told his father that he had gone to Texas and, in fact, enjoyed himself. His father stroked the son’s cheek with one finger and said, “That’s because your skin is not like this.” And then he stroked his own dark cheek.
All families need to have their own Talk with their kids on judging people by the content of their character and that alone. Starting at birth and regularly thereafter.
Thank you for your thoughtful comment. I’ll have to check out the book, it’s been recommended to me several times. It is going on my list!
I know. :(
First time visiting your blog. Really enjoyed this post!
Thank you, Dee! Hope to see you again. :)