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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Man, I hate talking about race (Trayvon Martin)

I hate talking about race but sometimes the conversation just can't be avoided.

You would have had to live under a rock this month to not know the Trayvon Martin story.  Now I tried to be quiet about this issue until I had all of the facts.  I wanted to KNOW that this child was innocent BEFORE shooting off at the mouth and making assumptions about things I knew nothing about.  After watching the issue for a full month, I can say this much... I AM SCARED.

Do I have a good reason to be scared?  Probably not.  But here's the thing.  I've got a big strapping dark-skinned, son who's built like a football player.  He could just as easily have been picked out as a thug in his favorite Eddie Bauer hoodie as he decided he wanted to run to the local McDonalds for a burger and walked back home through our gated community.  Should a neighborhood vigilante see his big hulking self, he wouldn't bother getting out of the car, he'd just probably shoot from there, because at 6"2 and well over 200 lbs, my baby is an imposing figure. 

I AM ALSO ANGRY.  I am angry that while my son may NEVER have to experience such an issue (considering that his father has never had to) that I had to have a talk to my son about appearance.  I had to ask him to always wear college gear when he goes off campus next year as he starts college.  I had to ask him to always try to dress professionally, even though his is still a kid. I had to tell him the proper protocol for behavior when being stopped while driving.  You know, hands on wheel, and uber polite... no sudden moves.

I AM DISSAPPOINTED.  I am disappointed that in 2012, I have to worry about my son's safety because some overzealous person my look at him and not see the mountain of handsome that I see.  They don't see a gentle giant.  They don't see a homeschooled kid with a laid back demeanor.  They don't see a protector.  They don't see a multiple scholarship recipient.  They don't see a capable Elections Official.  They wouldn't know that Fencing is his sport of choice.  They wouldn't know he'd been programing and building computers since age 11 and that he is going to college for Graphic Design. They see someone who looks "scary" or like "he does not belong".  What gets me the most is that the entire perception would change if they faced him and said "hi".  He would force a smile, and say "hi" back, and they would instantly know that his is a good kid.

I AM HEARTBROKEN.  I am heartbroken for the parents of Trayvon Martin who instead of people accepting this incident for what it is- a travesty and signal that racial relations have a long way yet to come, they instead try to smear his name and say that race relations are hopeless.  I am heartbroken for mothers of black boys everywhere who know that their child will (or has) outgrown their cute phase and so many segments of society would feel more comfortable if this boy were in jail or worse.  I am heartbroken for an America that won't take a chance to heal this rift between human beings who happen to have different skin colors.



Blondee said...

I am sad and scared as well. Scared that our world is becoming 'I can kill someone if my story is better than theirs'. Trayvon's young life is over and ended violently, and for what? So one man's ego as 'protector' of his community could be inflated? Because killing a child is what makes you a man?

I think the newly released video of the suspect speaks volumes, the injuries he claimed to have don't seem to exist when he was first taken into police custody.

Granted, I am a white person, with white son lookes like Eminem. He wears the oversized t-shirts and for a really long time had the close-cropped platinum hair. Should everyone assume that my son is a thug? That he most likely is on drugs and very well may be carrying a weapon? Truth is he is a 13 year old who just likes sloppy t-shirts. He's tall for his age, is homeschooled and says 'yes ma'am and no ma'am'. What has happened to us as a society that we judge people on looks instead of on their actual behaviour?

It would break my heart if I had to have the talk with my son that you had with yours about always wearing college gear, dress professionally and no sudden movements. It's a sad day when it's open season on our babies.

Praying for the world to change, and hoping to make a difference one day at a time.

Ahermitt said...

Thanks for this comment Blondee. It illustrates why we have to talk about race... I could only see this issue from my own perceptive... that a black child was killed, but you are right, it is not just a white-black issue, it is also a class issue, and a culture issue. If you are assumed to be "not as good as...." for any reason, you could be under fire.

Happy Elf Mom said...

I heard that there were more black-on-black murders than white-on-black last week in Chicaco alone etc. as if that were some sort of "don't pay attention to this story" sort of distraction, yk?

I don't know all the facts yet, but I'm paying attention. Hopefully this doesn't come across as "off," but... your son has a black Mom. What's going to happen to the thousands of black/Ethopian and other children of colour adopted by white families when they get to be teens? Also it strikes me that white kids can act more "ghetto" than black kids as teens, but there is so much more distain when black kids do it just out there in the regular community and prolly Blondee's kid is *less likely* to have problems than yours would in the same outfit. And then you get these crappy comments about how "clean" your kids are. (Okayyy hope that made sense.)

I just wonder a lot of stuff and I think we need to all talk, really talk more about it. :(

I tell my teens similar things, but expect that as they age they will NOT have to keep their hands visible when in shopping centers, etc...

PS I knew you would come out with something balanced to say. So much screaming online.

Ahermitt said...

Hi Happy! So much to think about.

~Yeah, don't you love how this story shouldn't matter because black kids are always killing each other? Well, I pay ALOT of money to live somewhere where my kids don't have to worry about black-on-black crime, but that makes them more of a target for they-don't-belong-here crime.

~I don't care how much my son likes rap music, (actually, he prefers rock and classical and plays classical piano) I don't allow him to sag or wear over sized shirts... as if I could find some anyway since he's a giant. But his pants must fit and be at his waist and he wears polo shirts, dress shirts, and sweater vests, and he will like it. One less thing to worry about.

~ I know a few black kids of white parents and in my experience, if they are open enough to adopt a black kid, they are also open enough to seek sage advice from well-respected black folks and raise them in the same way I raise mine... which also opens them up to standing out from the crowd. (you'd think that would be a good thing.)

Thanks for commenting, this is a really tough situation, and I just need to hear from other balanced people about the situation... my immediate crowd is completely silent on this matter.

Happy Elf Mom said...

What would the world look like if we could all really wake up out of racism, yk? REALLY see past the trappings and into people. OK... I have just seen the Matrix for the first time and in some ways I am still going whoaaaa... :)

So I am an idealist but not sure I see people idealLY just yet!! It would be nice if all of us could see differences as not mattering so much... like the difference between Italians or Irish.

They aren't and I know that all of us (no matter what colour) are swayed/influenced by media. I just can't even watch this stuff anymore. Remember Lisa "a black guy stole my kids" Smith who ran her car into the water? No one wanted to believe what she was capable of, and yet the investigation took that turn. I would like to think justice eventually will triumph.

It just seems (no really I have a point) that when things like this come up they can't be about Trayvon or Lisa or Joe or Ted. Everyone becomes some sort of racial archetype or something. It's so crazy ridiculous and YET it is often true... a white child in Kansas City doused with gas and lit on fire because they don't want his kind there... a black teen shot to death for being "suspicious." Archetypes that just bring out all the hurt and fear of the society. And it's used for fundraising and hyped up and then the NEXT TIME something like this happens?

See... it's kind of you to say I am balanced but I don't think any of us TRULY are completely YET. Working on it! I know you are too. :)

Ahermitt said...

The good news I THINK is that people have to point out the archetype. It took two weeks or more after Trayvon's death for people to start saying "this could happen to my child". It took me even longer because I am thinking... this would never happen to my son.. he is too meek and mild, he is too well kept, he walks too tall, looks people in the eye, etc, etc. But you hear it often enough, and you realize that there could be, (probably is), a race problem. Then you read the horrible racial things that are written in response to this issue and you are reminded how evil some folks are and eventually you say... oh-my-gosh, but for the grace of God go I. Yaknow?

Happy Elf Mom said...

I know! And... so many different stories out there... I look at stories like this and also wonder is it anti-immigrant, anti-autistic, or just "sic it to 'em and make them all shut up?" What "archetype" to file it under?? Your thoughts?? Or am I just looking to categorize something that fits NOWHERE.

Ahermitt said...

Wow happy, that's quite a story there. My first hunch is that it should go into the 'make them shut up' category... but it also seems like a whole bunch of deflecting to cover for the schools' inadequacies.