My son is scared he might be the next Trayvon Martin...
So last night, rather than sugar coating the situation, my youngest son and I sat down, watched the latest news on the case, and had the talk. It was a difficult conversation to have with a fourth grader and one that I wanted to push till he were older and better able to comprehend the complex realities of the world we live in, but, this was a significant moment and his fear was real.
This is also the talk that is ubiquitous in living rooms across many Black homes, Jewish homes, Muslim homes and Latino homes of late, and for ever, really. Those who come from groups that have been hunted-- or cast as the other -- we have these talks with our children. A decade ago, I had the talk with my oldest son when he entered adolescence. My momma had a similar conversation with her five children when we first arrived from the Caribbean to the U.S. Not speaking English and being poor, immigrant, brown made her five kids very vulnerable. Coincidentally, while visiting Israel a few weeks ago, two mothers, an Arab mom of two and a Jewish mom of seven, shared that they too have the "talk." They tell their kids of the harsh reality of potential violence because of the other. Ugh...
There are thousands of variations of the same tired conversation meant to protect our children from harm that spews from intolerance and bigotry. It's deep. It's complicated. It's urgent. And inescapable. Will these talks ever cease to exist? Will racism, antisemitism, any ism ever end? Ugh...
Last night, it was my turn to tell my son that there is a sickness in this world that we've yet to conquer. My message to him was clear: racism can infect anybody. Trayvon's killer, George Zimmerman, is white and Hispanic and according to all reports, he had a serious case of bigotry that made him view all young brown and black males with suspicion. It didn't matter that Zimmerman's mother is Latina, something Zimmerman's dad suggested inoculated his son from harboring bigotry against Blacks. His letter to the Orlando Sentinel is a peek into the mindset of the Zimmerman home. Racism, Mr Robert Zimmerman, is alive and kicking in Latino homes too, we just don't admit or talk about it. Welcome to the real world.
Being an eternal optimist, however, I will not give up hope that as a nation made up of a gorgeous mosaic of people from all over the globe -- and a promising democracy and beacon of hope to many -- will waste this precious moment. We can use this innocent boy's cold blooded murder to tackle the cancer that has consumed so many hearts and minds and claimed far too many of our citizens since the beginning. Kevin Powell's sobering and inspiring column Trayvon Martin and the Fatal History of American Racism put this issue in a historical perspective. Must read. Please read.
History offers moments when nations are asked to transcend to a more perfect union. To more perfect beings. A chance to do away with things that no longer serve us--racism never did and does not. I believe that this is one of those occasions where we are being asked as a nation to tap into our better nature. For Latino media, especially Spanish language media, it is particularly a salient opportunity to discuss racism within our own tribe. Latino families everywhere, are you listening?
And while its true that the dialogue starts in our living rooms we also need our leaders - politicians, from the President down to the local crossing guard and teacher -- to be bold and engage in an honest heart to heart dialogue.
There is justified growing public outrage. And as more and more Americans, of all walks of life and political persuasions learn about the case, they too are demanding bold actions. Arresting the killer immediately would send a loud message. So would revoking Zimmerman's gun permit. An investigation of the Sanford Police Department, which obviously botched this entire incident, is urgent as is a revision of the Stand Your Ground Law that seems to give Floridians a license to hunt and kill then claim self defense. That's just the beginning.
It's clear that this incident transcends that small neighborhood in America. If there is any good that can come out of this wretched tragedy let it be that we finally face the monster that is racism and kill it. I hope that we are not too immune or exhausted to seriously and courageously engage in a 21s century nationwide honest conversation on the topic of race, racism and the black and brown male.
Maybe I'm corny or naive to believe that great things happen when we talk, openly, honestly, boldly but to keep on keep on like nothing happened, like an innocent young boy wasn't hunted and killed like an animal because he was black, would be a shame. We will have missed a great opportunity to grow as individuals, and a nation to get closer to a place where young brown and black boys don't have to be scared of the armed bigots in their midst.