TRAYVON MARTIN: We have all heard the name over the last few weeks. We have all been outraged by the callous way this young man died 70 feet from his destination with a pack of skittles and Arizona Iced Tea. This story has been at the forefront of Race Relations discussions.
Trayvon’s English teacher said; “Trayvon was an A/B student that majored in cheerfulness” Looking at the pictures that have been released of him, the light he carried in his eyes proves this teacher’s assessment of him. Trayvon didn’t appear to me to have a intimidating bone in his body. He looks like the kid in high school that got along with EVERYBODY. Didn’t run with cliques; a Leader. We’ve heard nothing but praises for this young man and how much he was loved and respected. So what was it about him that caused George Zimmerman to act with such disregard?
For the last few weeks, I have wondered why this story has hit so close to home. Why when I think of Trayvon, my thoughts automatically turn to my own son. I have shed so many tears for Trayvon’s mother. I have put myself in her place and imagined the despair of losing her child paired with the anger of the way he was taken from her. I fully understand her outrage and I support it wholeheartedly.
You see, Trayvon and my 16 year old son Isaiah are very much alike. Isaiah, much like Trayvon has a delightful personality. Isaiah is 6 feet 2 inches, lanky, and hardly intimidating. He still gets shook during severe thunderstorms. Isaiah has a little sister. His sister is everything to him. He would hike it to the store to get whatever it is that she wants if he has money. He used to walk out my door at dusk sometimes telling me he was going to the store to get some stuff and he’ll be back. I would holler OK and not give it a second thought. He always came back home unscathed.
The last three weeks, I have had to reassess my leniency with him. He’s mostly responsible. He is so afraid of my ire; he keeps himself from running with the wrong crowd. He doesn’t have shady friends. Him and Trayvon probably could have been best friends had they knew each other. Their interests and personality were intricately similar.
We live in Pflugerville, Texas. It is a predominantly white suburb. But I’ve always felt there were enough black and Hispanic people in the suburb for it to be diverse enough; as much as diverse means in Texas with the population being mostly Hispanic, Black and White. There is a white man that stays across the field from us who is especially racist. My son steps on his grass accidentally; he’s in an uproar. I’ve had to check him more times than I care to for speaking to my son like he’s some kind of criminal. His blatant disdain for anything black is more than obvious. He once cussed his black neighbor out for mowing the grass on his property line. For all the asshole that this man is, one thing I don’t believe he’d do is shoot my child. He’s ignorant, but he’s not armed with a 9mm. Just a loud mouth and a racist heart.
This shooting has had me change the whole way that I parent Isaiah. I’ve had to have a discussion with him about conducting himself in public. I’ve have to make my child self-conscious about the way that he is carrying himself as not to look too intimidating to white people. But how do you encourage your child to be himself yet ask him to tone down who the hell he is? My child is now more confused then ever. He thought he was doing right. His response to me “Mom, do I look scary?” I thought about it. To me, and most other black people; Scary is not an adjective that is applicable to Isaiah Johnson. But then I thought about it. You put him in a Coogi hoody, some jeans and some Jordan’s. Adding to his attire the fact that he is 6 feet 2 inches 150 lbs and let us not forget: HE’S BLACK. This is all it will take to seem suspicious to a person like George Zimmerman. Who we have come to find out feels this way about any black man dressed in such a way.
White kids wear hoodies to…I see them all the time. Why is it that they are less scary in a hoody than a young black male? Why is it that I now have to shop for my son’s clothes and try to make him look less “Urban” because of what people like George Zimmerman could do to him because his dress makes him look “Suspicious”? Why should I have to educate my son on the dangers of being Young and Black? Why does being Young and Black have to be so effing dangerous? Why does my son have to tone down who he is to keep himself from being harassed by police or ignorant white people? When will we be able to stop using terms like Walking or Driving While Black when referring to why we are being harassed by police or ignorant white people? The anchor that is tied to Black people in America is a heavy one. It’s much lighter than it used to be thanks to our ancestors. But the weight is still a heavy one. White Parents; you will NEVER in your life understand how much scarier it is for US to raise our children in the America your ancestors created. The only thing I ask of you is to teach your children to understand that our kids are just like them. Their parents want the same things for them you do. We want our children to be able to walk to to the store, buy some skittles and an Arizona Ice Tea for their beloved younger sibling, and be able to make it back home in the rain wearing a hoody and not be shot by an overzealous nut with a superiority complex. Is that so much to ask?