I’ve had a few people who are close to me ask how Big T and I feel about Trayvon Martin, so I thought I’d over-share and write about it here. I want to preface this post by saying I’m not writing to start a debate or an argument. If you are looking for a debate, this isn’t a good place for it because I’m about to partake in a game of hide and go seek with Little T, and will be too busy to respond. I’m simply sharing my perspective as a mother who worries about her little boy. Her little boy who adores Snow White, singing, dancing, laughing, and who happens to have a different skin color than mine. I wish I could say that it doesn’t matter what the color of his skin is, but that wouldn’t be true.
The thing is, one day our baby boy is going to grow up into a teenager, and we’re going to need to have a conversation with him that we never needed to have when we were growing up. When he’s walking around without us- like teenagers and kids often do, our sweet, funny, and polite little boy may not seem sweet to others who haven’t met him. Even at this age, we’ve had friends comment about how tough he looks when he isn’t smiling. They don’t mean it in a rude way, but the thing is that Little T isn’t trying to look tough. He just isn’t smiling. He’s probably thinking deeply about the difference between play dough and mashed potatoes. The last thing on his mind is “toughness”.
One day we are going to need to teach Little T to go out of his way to not “look intimidating”. We’re going to tell him not to walk with his hands in his pockets, and not to wear a hoodie (even though mommie and daddy wear one when they walk and it’s cold). He’s going to have to learn ways that he can keep himself safe.
The same way that I don’t have the freedom to feel safe when I walk to my car alone at night, Little T won’t have the freedom to feel safe when he walks down the street alone. It’s a sad truth, that I hope will change someday.
Here’s where I need a little help. What do I tell Little T to do if an adult in plain clothes starts chasing him down the street in his own neighborhood at night? Pre-Trayvon Martin, I would have told him to defend himself. I would have told him to do everything he could to survive because the idea of anything happening to Little T is unbearable. What should I tell him to do? To stop and let a strange-grown man tackle him onto the ground? Trayvon didn’t do anything that I wouldn’t have done in the same situation.
That’s why the whole thing makes me worried for my little boy. One day, I’m going to need to look up street strategies for him, and hope that some crazed vigilante doesn’t decide he’s too intimidating to be walking through his neighborhood. In the meantime, I’m hoping that the tragedy for Trayvon and his family, will make it safer for all the Little T’s out there. Hopefully someday, there wont be a need for that conversation.
Thanks for listening, friends.
It’s so sad that you have to prepare for that conversation with him. Maybe things will get better by the time he gets older but seeing as they haven’t changed much and it’s 2013, I’ve almost lost faith in humanity. But people like you and many others keep me hopeful.