This About Trayvon Martin
And this is about all of us. I am a white woman. To some that automatically disqualifies me to feel what I feel about the verdict in the trial about Trayvon Martin’s death. I am angry. I am heartbroken. But I am also hopeful.
I Am Angry.
I am the mother of two African-American sons. What happened to Trayvon Martin could have happened to them. Yes, as their mother, I warned them. Don’t run from police–it doesn’t matter what it is about–don’t run. Be respectful of police–yes, even if they are not in the right. Keep your hands empty and in sight. Don’t speed in certain neighborhoods. Pay attention. Be careful. PLEASE. Be careful. I sent them out into the world and I worried. And there were instances. Both of them were accused of things that there was no way they did–they were just walking or driving by. There are people who don’t believe that this happens. White people. It is true–if you are black, especially if you are male, you are guilty until proven innocent. Trayvon was searched in association with his suspension from school and the policeman found a screwdriver . The school investigator described this screwdriver as a burglary tool. If your white child had a screwdriver do you really believe for a second that that would have been the automatic assumption?
This decision sends the message that it is ok to shoot a black child if you claim self-defense. Even if you take actions that bring on the circumstances. Even if you have a history of being abusive and racist. As the mother of African-American sons, I find that intolerable. As a citizen of this country I find this unconscionable. I am angry.
I Am Heartbroken.
I cannot imagine handling myself with the strength and grace that Trayvon Martin’s parents have. I can’t imagine telling people to respect the jury’s decision. I can’t imagine. Their child walked to the store from a “safe” neighborhood and was confronted and KILLED on the way back home. On his way back home. To safety. He was suspected of being up to no good. Because he was young. Because he was black. I think of their loss and I am heartbroken.
But I Am Also Hopeful.
The reactions that I have seen have been angry and enraged and heartbroken and desperately depressed. I also see, however, a quiet powerful strength emerging. I see a broad determination to speak out, to not tolerate this situation any longer. I see people being introspective and outspoken and tough. This isn’t about violence. This is about making a change. This morning I hear the most articulate discussions I’ve ever heard about implicit racism (the polite word is bias, but the real word is racism) that I’ve ever heard in public media. We ALL have to understand how our thoughts guide our behavior, decisions and attitudes–and we aren’t even aware of those thoughts. They happen in the flash of a second. They happen at the speed of an electrical impulse. EVERYONE has them. People feel fear at the sight of a black man. People feel fear at an interaction with a white person. Yeah, go ahead and deny it. Research–lots of it–says otherwise.
This has gotten better with each generation. It is time, however, to fix it. To stop it. This is another Rosa Parks moment. Our Trayvon Martin moment must be to take control of our own prejudices and wrestle them away. We must protect the members of our African-American community, especially our boys. We MUST.