I was really trying to avoid commenting about the Zimmerman trial, but it’s just not going to happen. My Facebook feed is schizophrenic again, because I have a very diverse group of friends, and the comments are all over the place. The “Nugent says this vindicates citizen patrols” just put me over the edge. And, the saint-like portrayals of this young man are almost as bad. So here goes.
None of us know what happened between Mr. Zimmerman and Mr. Martin. For my own sanity, I have to put faith in our justice system. As flawed as it may be, it’s one of the best in the world. The verdict is what it is, and I was proud of President Obama when he said as much.
Having said that, a young man is dead, and another young man’s life is ruined. The whole situation is tragic. I’m thinking there might have been a bit too much “fight or flight” going on, which I know from my own life often has dire consequences. Here’s another thing I know from my own life – whether there was racial profiling involved in this situation or not, it happens. It happens in 2013. Please stop acting like it doesn’t.
I’ve been trying to figure out how to explain to my beautiful 8-year-old son that he will likely be treated differently during his lifetime, because of the color of his skin. The way I’ve raised him, he has no clue that he’s any different from me, and I will have to break his heart with the news that he is. At some point, he will be treated like a suspect, he will be guilty of “driving while black,” he will be confronted about something he hasn’t done, and it will be because he’s black. I hope that’s as bad as it gets. I will never, ever again buy him a hoodie.
I listened to a great NPR story this morning on “the talk” that black families have to have with their kids, to help them understand what I’ve described above. There’s not much I’m scared of in this world, but being a white mother and having that talk with my black kids scares the hell out of me. I barely know what I’m talking about, and I’m a member of the oppressive class for God’s sake.
When my 14-year-old gets followed around at the mall, but her white friends don’t, how do I explain that? When the school administrator dismisses my daughter’s concerns, but listens to the white bully, how do I explain that? And, when my 8-year-old looks over my shoulder at Facebook and grins and says, “Is that me on Facebook?” How do I say, “no that’s a dead black boy who looks a lot like you?”
And, finally, how do I sleep at night, when I know that just like a lot of you reading this, when a young black man pulls up next to me, with his music playing a little too loud, without conscious thought I stiffen and move to lock my doors. I racially profile, and I am the mother of three beautiful, black children. I was not raised that way, I don’t think that way, yet my fight or flight kicks in because of stereotypes that have been burned on my brain. I am more ashamed than I can say.
I’m convinced that if racial healing is going to happen, it will be because white people confront their assumptions and beliefs – really confront them – and proactively and deliberately begin the healing process. Tomorrow I’m attending a vigil for racial healing that our local YWCA is hosting. I’m also part of a Witnessing Whiteness class hosted by our local YWCA that is based on the book by Shelly Tochluk. I challenge you to challenge yourself and your ideas about race by reading the book. If you have other suggestions for racial healing, please offer them in the comments for others. But whatever you do, please stop telling yourself you’re not a racist. Stop telling yourself you’re a progressive, educated person, because odds are you’re not as progressive as you think.