See now, here’s the thing. I did the hoodie picture. I wept for the teenaged boys I taught. I wrote about how they were getting frisked for hanging out while being brown. I got angry. I got angry. I got angry.
And last night, when I heard that Trayvon Martin’s murderer was acquitted, I was stunned, confused, horrified. I hadn’t watched any of the proceedings, so really, I can’t comment with any authority. I saw snippets from the passionate #J4TM folks on Twitter, but I didn’t watch.
Soon enough, my horror turned to sadness, a deep and abiding sadness for Trayvon’s family, for all of us, but especially for mothers of brown boys. Because I can say, “I am Trayvon Martin’s mother” all morning, all day, and all night. But the fact is, I’m not. My son, despite looking just as sweet in winter photos, doesn’t look much like Trayvon Martin. And that takes one or two or three layers of fear from my shoulders as I think about him becoming a teenager and going out on evening errands on his own.
The truth is, that even though my children may have dangers and trouble and trials, and even though they might be targeted because of their privilege and whiteness, this verdict, however it came about, says that it’s not a crime to follow, stalk, accost, and then react violently to a teenager who is suspect because of the color of his skin.
And nothing is different about that today than it was yesterday or the day before. And it is NOT hopeless. To say so is to diminish the gains so many fought for and worked for and died for. But it’s a long, hard road. It’s a road with many side streets and diversions. But it’s one we must, we must, we must keep traveling for all of our children. Bad laws need changing. Bad stereotypes need exposure and changing. And bad policies regarding guns need tightening.
So, no. I am NOT Trayvon Martin’s mother. But I am responsible, just as you are, for making sure that complacency in that privileged position does not stifle my conscience. We are members of the country and the society that changes the channel on the health crisis that is gun violence in the United States of America. And because of that, we are responsible for your family’s safety as well as my family’s safety.
So get to it. Because the soap box, the ballot box, the high horse, the editor’s inbox, the petition site, the elected representative, the child next door – they all need your action, your voice, your righteous indignation at injustice.
Anger ebbs and flows. Perseverance must not. Work it out.