Sunday, July 14, 2013

It Could (Not) Have Been My Kid

I am not black. More to the point, I am not black in America in 2013. My sons are not black. They do not wear hoodies, which to my mind are absolutely irrelevant to race in any case. They do, however, love Skittles, and one of them is fonder by the day of iced tea.

I am not black, but I am a mother of sons who fears for their safety when they venture into the outside world without me. Yes, I fear for their safety even if they are now old enough to know what it means to be prudent; I am sure that I will never stop fearing for their safety.

I am not black, but my aunt is black, and my cousins are half-black, and I have observed what being black in America does, and fails to do, for them. I have stared dumbfounded at my 7th grade English teacher, who confronted with my stated desire to write a 3-page biography of my black aunt stammered, “But Sarah: How can your aunt be black?”

I am not black, but I recognize a travesty of justice when I see one. I am not black, but I compare the Zimmerman verdict with the contemporaneous verdict of the jury presented with the case of a black Floridian woman who fired warning shots up into the air to frighten her allegedly abusive husband: guilty, to the tune of twenty years in prison. Huh?

I am not black, but I am outraged: as a mother, as a mother of sons, as a person with black relatives (yes, Mrs. D'Aiutolo, it’s possible), as an American.

Yet I do not fault the Zimmerman jury, not exclusively, anyway. The fault lies far beyond those six women, in laws that permit citizens to own and use guns, and in widespread stereotypes about young black men perpetuated by people who are supposed to serve and protect every single one of us, not only the subset that happens to have been born white.

Trayvon Martin was just another teenaged boy full of bluster and bravado, flooded by testosterone and still learning his way around social mores and dictates. Teenaged boys are a subspecies, to be sure. They routinely make poor choices and often have to be protected from themselves as much as from anyone, or anything, else.

But only black teenaged boys end up paying for their awkward adolescent posturing with their lives.


Blog Antagonist said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you. I have been trying to make this point about teenaged boys and nbody seems to want to hear me.

Bibliomama said...

Thank-you, Sarah. I can't get beyond inarticulate enraged sputtering.

ozma said...

It is sickening because this kid was a regular kid who is like so many other kids we know and who would never be characterized in any hateful way is being slandered in death in the most evil way. All because he is black.

There is a complicated element because I agree with you completely but I also think lower class white and hispanic males are targeted by police-depending. Certainly not to the extent young black males are--not even close. (And they don't cause murderous fear hysteria in their fellow citizens--especially not white teenage boys.)

If you want to see another travesty of justice, watch the documentary on the Central Park Rape case.

ewe are here said...

Spot on. Teenage boys don't have fully developed impulse control. It's a biological thing. They shouldn't be followed, stalked, harassed, feared and killed for existing.

alejna said...

I have been so heartsick over this. I'm having trouble organizing my thoughts.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts, which are much better organized than mine.