Raising Boys in a Dangerous World
I was feeling badly about not blogging frequently. Now I am feeling badly that I feel like I need to blog about something. I wish I didn’t know the name Trayvon Martin because I would not know his name if he was still living. And yet, I wish I had heard his name earlier. I don’t watch the news often and often read international news sources more than American news sources, so it could be my fault that I only learned Trayvon’s story this week, nearly a month after his death. But when I googled for blogs about Trayvon not much came up. Is there a reason we aren’t talking about this? I know that I am tearing up just already writing this. Is it just too much to talk about, too emotional for us as mothers?
The mama post that most got me is MamaCandtheBoys’ Wearing a hoodie and sweatpants or… I am so glad she chose to share the photo of her adorable, precious, vulnerable son. It seems to be such a brave choice right now.
I don’t fully understand the law in Florida. I don’t know what justice can or will be served. Can and will are very, very separate in this case. I do know that nearly 1,500,000 people have signed a petition asking that George Zimmerman is prosecuted.
I don’t know what happened or who said what, even after listening to all of the 911 calls. (I had to post this link because it was difficult for me to find them because it seems people have been using it for SEO.)
I think that Michael Skolnik may have stepped on a few toes with his article White People, You Will Never Look Suspicious Like Trayvon Martin, but I don’t think he is wrong.
I know that yesterday, there was a “Million Hoodies” march in New York City to draw attention to Trayvon’s death, so maybe I wasn’t the only one who hadn’t heard about it.
I have heard (but not found confirmation) that Trayvon was on the phone with his girlfriend when he noticed George Zimmerman watching him. I have heard that she told him to run, but he said he did not want to. I will assume that Trayvon’s parents had The Talk with him, and he knew that running for safety could exacerbate the situation. I’m afraid that knowing that George Zimmerman ignored the 911 dispatcher’s instructions, nothing could have truly entirely kept him from harm.
As a mama, that is what scares me the most. As parents of brown children or black children, especially as parents of sons, we must prepare them for the assumption of trouble. While I prefer to assume the best of people, I know that the worst will be assumed of our sons. How can we ever prepare them enough even to manage the most sane of those who are prejudiced to expect the worst?
Corey Dade gave us a few thoughts from what his parents taught him. A dear friend who has a son on the verge of leaving adolescence, told me that she has talked to him about never wearing his hood up because it can increase negative perceptions… and he is an attractive, intelligent, well-spoken white boy. The worse has been assumed of him simply because he is a male teenager, and he is white. Our brown sons and black sons will be pulled over simple for driving. They will be followed in stores. They will not be allowed to date certain girls because their families do not approve.
I hadn’t yet thought about not wearing hoods up, but we will definitely have that conversation. Beyond hoodies, we will talk about perceptions of sagging and other fashion choices. I will explain to my boys that being well spoken is not bougie, but a way to encourage others to expect positive things from them. We have to talk about how perceptions can be changed by posture and gait and mannerisms. I am more likely to ensure that my boys drive cars that are clean and well cared for.
The pressure of self-preservation that requires such maturity and awareness of our boys before they are truly capable of such things crushes my heart for every one of these boys. It is overwhelming and perhaps why we don’t want to talk about Trayvon. But we cannot ignore it. We cannot pretend it isn’t reality. We cannot fool ourselves that there are not people out there who cannot see past the color of one’s skin. We cannot believe that the world is safe.
What we can do is support each other as mothers. Regardless of the color of our skin, regardless of whether our children are adopted or biological, no matter if our children are black or brown, we are all still mothers raising children in this dangerous, prejudiced world. We can support each other when the world is cruel to our children. We can learn from each other. I will support you. Will you help me? What will you teach your sons to keep them safe? What should I be teaching my boys?
Edit: I need to add this link to How to Talk to Young Black Boys About Trayvon Martin. I am sure there are more things we need to teach our sons, but this is a good place to start.