I battled with myself about whether or not to post about Trayvon Martin or the George Zimmerman trial. But I decided that since I originally wanted to use this website for BJ to one day be able to read my thoughts and know his mommy’s feelings on a deeper level; that this is in fact the perfect place to write about the outcome of this trial…
I’ve been naïve enough to believe that we will live in a world so progressive that BJ won’t have to deal will the prejudices of the yesteryear but the verdict that was read on 7-13-13 opened my eyes and obliterated any hope I had for a brighter tomorrow. I know people who have asked the question “where were you when the verdict was read on the Rodney King trial?” I was too young to understand the implications of that trial but I’m sure the acquittal of George Zimmerman left the same sour taste in my mouth that the King trial left in my parent’s. I was holding BJ when the verdict was read; BJ looked at me as I reacted to the acquittal. I wanted to cry but knew that would upset him. All I could think about was that poor innocent child and then “what does that mean for my child?” My son IS and WILL be Trayvon Martin one day. Dear Lord, how do I keep my son safe??
BJ will be judged by the color of his skin before he has a chance to open his mouth and create a first impression. The size and stature that I love so much in my husband; the broad shoulders and thick neck, the way he steps into a room and everyone notices his 6 foot 5 frame will become the thing that will possibly become BJ’s biggest liability. These are things I never thought about before now. The size that I once equated to the defensive line in football now means so much more. If BJ grows to be just as big as his daddy then he will be deemed suspicious in not only just the dark but the daylight too. Dear Lord, how do I keep my son safe?
We will teach BJ to defend himself, we’ll teach him not to let anyone bully him and we will tell him that he has our permission to kick somebody’s butt if he feels his safety is threatened, the same way that I’m sure Sybrina Fulton instructed her son. But her son was shot and killed after being hunted down and attacked… her murderer’s excuse for killing him? That HE feared for HIS life? How is that even possible? Is that not the same thing as me walking up and attacking a random stranger, that person defending themselves and proceeding to whip my butt and then me shooting them in “self-defense?” Does the fact that I initiated contact not mean anything? After all, if I hadn’t that perfect stranger would still be alive. Dear Lord, how do I keep my son safe?
My son IS and WILL be Trayvon Martin. He will have to figure out how to tiptoe the line between being viewed as assertive and being viewed as aggressive. He will have to work harder than his white counterparts for even the most basic of liberties. And sadly, there will be some people who believe he is less capable, smart or trustworthy because of his skin color. I don’t know how to keep him safe. The fact of the matter is that the older he gets the less I will be able to shield him from these cold hard truths. My husband and I will have to instill in him enough drive, self-worth and self-respect to ensure that he believes in himself even if no one else does. I won’t be able to filter the people he comes in contact with; I can’t shield him from the George Zimmermans of this world.
I expected to feel anger… maybe even rage when the verdict was read. I wasn’t prepared for the onslaught of sadness. I didn’t know that I’d feel so desolate after hearing those two words, “not guilty.” George Zimmerman’s not guilty verdict meant that Trayvon Martin was guilty. And his only crime was being black and walking to his dad’s house in the dark. His skin color made him suspicious and George Zimmerman acted upon that suspicion. My anguish came from the realization that there’s nothing I can do to keep my son safe from people with that mindset. There’s nothing I can do to prepare him for the first time someone hurls the N-word at him. There is nothing that will heal his hurt when he meets the first girl who “isn’t allowed” to date him or be friends with him because of his skin color. These are issues that my happy, energetic and smart little boy doesn’t even know exist. How many more years does my baby have left of his sweet, blissful innocence? How long do we have before we have to have “the talk?” Not the birds and the bees talk that all families have. The talk that black and brown families have; the one that explains to them that the world isn’t fair and that some people will judge you and hate you just because of the way that you look. The talk that will alter his outlook on life from that point on.
I’ll continue to pray for this country, for Trayvon Martin’s family, and for those of us raising black boys in white America. My rose colored glasses have taken on a different tint, so I’ll also continue to pray for progress… and though my son may not be raised in the country I’d hoped we were closer to becoming… maybe his kids will be.