Thursday, March 22, 2012

My Boys Need to Know about Trayvon

Trayvon Martin


http://ac360.blogs.cnn.com/2012/03/21/tonight-on-ac360-does-florida-law-let-killers-go-free/?iref=allsearch

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.

13 comments:

  1. Too bad their childhood has to be marred by stories like this. I hope they never have to feel the prejudice.

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    1. Me too, but I am afraid they will. Thanks for reading.

      Alison

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  2. If you click the "read more" link in the Anderson Cooper article, you find another article that includes information about a different shooting. Speaking of racism... I blogged about that one: http://chittisterchildren.wordpress.com/2012/03/22/youve-heard-of-trayvon-martin/

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    1. I enjoyed your post. Thanks for commenting.

      Alison

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  3. I wish we could let them be sweet and innocent, but we would fail our sons - and ourselves - if we did not prepare them. Please keep sharing how the conversation goes as we will be having the same conversations. ((hugs)) to you, mama.

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    1. You are so right, we would fail them if we didn't prepare them. Hugs back to you Beyond Normal Mom (love the name)!

      Alison

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  4. That was the saddest, most horribly awful story, it made me sick to my stomach and very mad at the same time. That shouldn't happen, it shouldn't have happened 100 years ago and it shouldn't happen now. Let us know how the talk goes, any advice in that category is much appreciated.

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    1. Completely agree. We will all continue this conversation. It is good to have other who relate. Thanks for reading and commenting. It means a lot to me.

      Alison

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  5. The entire case is just so upsetting. I can't stop thinking about the life that was lost and his poor loved ones left behind to suffer through the aftermath.

    I encourage all of you to take 23 minutes and watch this inspiring TED Talk. You won't regret it.
    http://tinyurl.com/7lf2phb

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  6. This TED talk is on my to do list this week! Thanks Michelle.

    xxoo,
    Alison

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  7. This reminds me of an English class I was teaching a few years ago, at an inner city high school, near Boston. I was thrilled when Marjorie, one of the most beautiful ( but unfortunately not academically inclined) girls I've ever met, raised her hand to participate. But the question she asked me left me stunned ( since I was a first yr teacher and it was my first experience being a minority myself, white teacher in predominantly black school). what she said was this, "Miss, is it bad to be black?"

    Another of my favorite, though most at risk students, cheerfully recounted to me how the uncle of his ( white) buddy sitting next to him, took shots at him when he stepped on his front lawn!!! He was a middle school kid!!! Nobody but me seemed to find this inappropriate... so yet again I found it impossible to stick to my lesson plan on poetry, deviating this time into a lesson on self worth, how they are equal human beings, not animals...and that it is NEVER OK for someone to shoot at you. He just shrugged, and remained unconvinced. I finished the lesson by politely requesting of the white boy that he ask his uncle to not shoot at his friends in the future, and tried to encourage the class to call 911 should this happen to them.

    I hope these are conversations you never have to have with Miki and Jem...

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    1. Sophie,

      Thanks so much for reading and for all of your thoughtful comments. They mean a lot.

      Alison

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