My twenty-four-year-old son Andrew lives in South Harlem. He often wanders around Manhattan wearing a hoodie and eating candy. I don’t worry too much about his safety, just the “be careful”, mom stuff. I never think, “I hope he isn’t mistaken for a burglar tonight”. Or, “He better not go into a white neighborhood if he doesn’t have any business being there.” No, instead I feel confident knowing that he is as safe as he can be and police officers, security guards, and the neighborhood watch have his back as long as he stays on the right side of the law.
Trayvon Martin’s mom never had that security. I’m pretty sure there wasn’t a day of his life she didn’t worry about him, hope he didn’t have an “attitude” with the wrong people or be somewhere he shouldn’t be. Let’s say it was Andrew walking through that Florida neighborhood. Would George Zimmerman have shot him? And if Mr. Zimmerman had shot Andrew would we be having a different discussion? Yes, I think we would.
Last week I saw a conversation two of my Facebook friends were having with a mutual friend of theirs. It was about how Trayvon Martin was not the choirboy he was made out to be and that George Zimmerman was Hispanic. I suppose this means they thought Trayvon had it coming, but I’m not sure because I couldn’t comment and ask what the point was. Probably just as well or I would have been in yet another Facebook debate. I don’t really see how either of those things makes a difference. How many of us have kids that have been in trouble? More of us than know or are willing to admit I assure you. I have a child who has struggled with some of the same issues as Trayvon Martin. I sincerely hope that does not mean she could be shot if she turns around and asks someone why he or she is following her. I find it a tad ironic that Mr. Zimmerman being Hispanic should be relevant in whether or not his murdering Mr. Martin was racially motivated. Can’t Hispanic people be racist? Is it not racist to think all minorities love each other? Oh look, I managed to comment anyway.
We all racially profile. We are all racist at one time or another. The point is to try to get beyond initial impressions and reactions and take each situation and each person as an individual. I realize George Zimmerman was in a position where he had to make pretty quick decisions. But, here lies what I think is the real problem with this whole thing. If you leave your home with a gun you are intending to use it. Once you have reported a suspicious person to the police and the police have told you not to follow them you stop following them. The Stand Your Ground law should not apply to those who go out looking for a place to stand their ground. Trayvon Martin, even if he were the worst person on the planet, was doing nothing to warrant being followed be George Zimmerman. It was not George Zimmerman’s job. This was murder. I don’t care if he was black, white, brown, yellow, green, or purple it was murder.
Personally, I have had very little experience with racism. I grew up white in Orange County in a family that did not talk about people based on how they looked. I even dated a guy for seven months and I didn’t know he was black until he told me. Perhaps I am not that observant. I didn’t know what it was like to live with racism or cultural stereotypes until we adopted Addie and luckily for us it has been few and far between. Usually, it has been from well meaning people just saying thoughtless things. It cracks me up that people just assume that because Addie is Asian she is smart, good at math and a virtuoso on the violin. She is really smart, but she has lazy stupid white parents who aren’t going to push her that hard. It’s kind of like our own nature vs. nurture experiment. I know she is going to have to deal with things that will hurt her feelings and make her sad and I can’t change that. I just pray that I will have the blessing from God to only have to try to protect her from hateful words and ignorant attitudes and not a bullet from a vigilante’s gun.