I can't stop thinking about Trayvon Martin (see above link if you are not familiar with this story). When I was the mother of only two white girls, this story would have upset me. Because my two youngest children are black boys, this story not only upsets me, it scares me. It also reminds me that I have failed in my job as their mother.
I have made sure we have books and art that feature African Americans. We attend Ethiopian Culture Camp and other Ethiopian events throughout the year. We watch movies that tell the stories and struggles that African Americans have gone through over the years. We have discussed slavery and the civil rights movement. The boys know about Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks. They are knowledgeable about the Negro Baseball League. They know that people with skin the same color as theirs were not treated well. I have made it sound like this kind of mistreatment was in the past.
It's not that I didn't know that racism exists in the present. I knew that there were conversations we needed to have. Right now our boys are sheltered under the umbrella of our white privilege. Before too long they will be seen and judged outside of the context of our family. They will become teenagers and then men. Black teenage boys and black men. Based on that fact alone they will scare some people, they will cause suspicion, they will be watched more closely when they are in stores, they will cause some women to hold their purses tighter. In all likelihood they will be pulled over while driving more often than their white counterparts. They may be questioned by police because they 'fit the description' of someone they are looking for. They need to be prepared.
They need to know that some people will not just fear them, but hate them because of the color of their skin. They need to know about hate crimes, like the murder this past summer of James Craig Anderson. http://www.cnn.com/2012/03/22/justice/mississippi-hate-crime/index.html?hpt=hp_c2 . They need to understand that this level of hatred is not just something of the past.
I thought that these difficult conversations could wait. I was wrong. Along with Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks they need to know about Trayvon Martin and James Craig Anderson. They need to know that people like George Zimmerman exist. These are conversations that I wish I didn't have to have with Mikias and Jemberu, but it is dangerous to be a black teenage boy or black man in our country. To avoid having these conversations would make it even more dangerous.
Telling Trayvon's story seems to be a good place to start.