George Zimmerman's trial may be over, but the wounds left in its wake are still here. What has happened is especially painful to think about as a parent of an African American boy. It's unbelievable that someone can just walk away scot-free after killing a young, unarmed teen. Shocking. Chilling. Heartbreaking. Though, more so than the not guilty verdict itself is what the conclusion of this trial tells the world. Perhaps no one put it better than Trayvon Martin's own mother.
Speaking out for the first time, Sybrina Fulton told NBC's Today:
Sending a terrible message to other little black and brown boys -- that you can't walk fast, you can't walk slow. So what do they do? I mean, how do you get home without people knowing or either assuming that you're doing something wrong? Trayvon wasn't doing anything wrong.
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It really is a frightening reality that few of us know how to prepare our children for. So what are we parents to do? My husband and I have given this a lot of thought in recent days. As soon as our son, now 5, is a few years older, we will have to tell him that there are times he will be judged unfairly because of the way he looks. That because he is black, his life could be put in danger even if he has done nothing wrong. We don't want to terrify him, but we can't have him walking around blind to the realities of this world. Just the thought of this conversation overwhelms me with sadness.
But let's be honest here. It's not just wannabe vigilantes like George Zimmerman that pose a threat. Police profiling certainly can play a dangerous part too. There have been numerous cases of cops stopping or harassing black men who turn out to be innocent of any wrongdoing. When I was growing up and even today, friends and family members called it, "Driving while black." It's the notion that because of your skin color, you are more likely to be pulled over. It happens to everyone -- doctors, lawyers, even politicians of color. Years ago, a family friend and his son were stopped by police and beaten so badly he was hospitalized for days. It was a case of mistaken identity.
Reportedly, Lavar Burton takes his hat off and says "Sir" whenever he is pulled over by the cops. But is this capitulation for the sake of survival really fair? Of course not. I have a hard time accepting that I should have to teach my son to treat a racist with reverence just so that he may live. That is just infuriating. That whole concept is just infuriating.
It's incredible to me that we are still asking the world to judge people by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin. Martin Luther King, Jr. must be rolling over in his grave. We have come so far in many ways, but are still far behind in ones that matter. This just feels like a game we cannot win. I am raising my child to be a hardworking, educated, ethical human being. Sadly, that just won't be what some will see.
What will you tell your children about what happened to Trayvon Martin?
Image via T. Ron Scott/Flickr