There are far too many well written things already done on the George Zimmerman case out there. The truth is, they are written by people who write for a living and/or people who have a much higher stake in this “game” (i.e. people of color) and so I defer mostly to them. Take a look at some of the links here or friend me on Facebook where I’ve linked to a few great posts as well.
On Monday when we were riding in the car listening to NPR the kids started asking me questions. Having always been open and honest with them on every topic, race included, I stayed the course and tried to answer their questions with every bit of honesty I could. At one point Tariku asked something to the effect of, “But why did George Zimmerman think Trayvon was suspicious?” God help me I started crying. Because I was looking at the face of my gorgeous black son and had to tell him, “Because he’s black.”
Of course I saw it on his face, and the face of Dailah who started crying too. I went on to explain I was crying because the thought of someone finding my sons-my brilliant, kind, generous, loving sons-threatening scares the ever lovin’ shit out of me. I was crying because Tariku, of all of my kids, would be the 17-year-old out buying his little brother skittles and iced tea wearing a hoodie in the rain. I was crying because the reality was, until I adopted my 3 boys I had no idea just how bad our system is in protecting people of color, I had no idea just how deep my white privilege was/is.
As much as I want to feel badly about the years in which I definitely said racist things and perpetuated racial stereotypes, it does nothing in the way of furthering my commitment to to stop doing that. So many of the people I grew up with, people also born in white suburbia, don’t have to acknowledge racism because it isn’t a part of their reality. But I want to challenge all people not to deny something exists just because it doesn’t happen to them.
I will raise my 3 black sons to live in a world that will treat them differently than it treats their white brother. I will raise them that way because I have to. And I say that knowing it might not freaking matter. I say that knowing there is still a chance a man with a gun might confront them and “stand his ground” all while not allowing my sons to “stand their ground”.
I also know this is true. My 3 black sons have 2 white parents. My umbrella of white privilege will most definitely cover them when they are with me, and will undoubtedly cover them a little more while they are out in a community in which we are known. But that will not stop me from acting on every racist thing I hear anymore, it won’t stop me from acting in any way possible. I don’t know what that’s going to look like yet, but I have a feeling in the coming months and years there will be opportunities for me to reveal my true character on racism and I will not be found wanting.
The stakes are too high, not just for my boys but for millions more just like them. Cute little afro-ed boys who turn out to be strong, black men.
So please, educate yourself. Set aside your politics or your pride and just. freaking. do. it. Open your ears and your heart, let your mind burst wide open with the possibility that things might not be the way you’ve always seen them. And read. Read like crazy. Start with blogs and then go get this book. The New Jim Crow, Mass Incarceration in the time of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander is one of the best books I’ve ever read about race and our country’s really, really terrible justice system.
Thank you, thank you.
What have you read about the case that speaks to you?
I’m still processing all of this. I feel like now, though, that some of the best statements have come from President Obama–the way he put it into a framework for everyone. I’m sure plenty of people who think the Zimmerman trial was an opportunity for race baiting will not appreciate what he said, but you cannot deny Obama’s experiences. When he speaks from a position of authority and leadership and says that even he experienced racial profiling as a young man, you can not cover your ears to that! More than anything, though, it shows that people living in white privilege have not come as far as they believe that have in understanding people with different cultural experiences.
love your heart, sister. and like cathy, i loved obama’s message. from the heart, from personal experience. i just hope people will start to listen.