For Nathaniel….and Trayvon.
For about a week now I have been holding back on responding in anyway (at least publicly) to the Trayvon Martin killing. Mostly because I have friends of all races and nationalities and I was concerned about what they would think of me if I spoke out. Would they think that I was a supremacist of some kind because I was angered over the death of a black boy at the hands of a white man? Would they think I was a radical if I started spouting out how we don’t live in the post-racial society that everyone thought we’d have after President Obama was elected? Would they avoid me?
Eventually the little person in me said, “Who the hell cares?” And I started thinking about this tragedy differently …I started thinking of it as a mother. A mother of three, as well as a mother of a little boy. An energetic, mischievous, active, smart little boy, who gravitates towards my husband’s orbit and wants to emulate everything my husband does or says. He’s observant, witty in the face of fierce opposition from his sisters, and just downright funny. He’s a video game, comic book hero enthusiast, with a love of cars, trains, and Legos. He’s clearly his father’s boy.
But every morning, no matter what….he comes downstairs and kisses me good morning and hugs me fiercely, then goes on with his day. At night it’s the same, he has to kiss me before he goes up to bed. I didn’t realize how much those kisses meant until recently. Two nights ago he fell asleep without giving me my kiss and I went upstairs to see if he was okay. I stared at him sleeping for at least 15 minutes. I ran his life through my mind: born 4 weeks early, he became a thriving energetic child, who giggles, wants to read passionately, and continues to believe in himself even when the outside world and his first grade teacher don’t.
Then I thought about Sybrina Fulton (Trayvon’s mother). She would never be able to look at her baby like this again.
Then I started getting angry, angry because as a black parent I have had to spoil my children’s innocence in order for them to survive. I’ve had to tell a 10, 6, and 5 year old that the world outside our door will not always be kind. Mediocrity will be looked upon as ignorance, and strength will always be a requirement.
I am angry too, because every day my husband and I get closer to having “the talk” with Nathaniel. Always have ID, don’t run from law enforcement, when it feels wrong it is wrong, don’t talk back to law enforcement, sometimes it will feel like there’s a target on your back, always have money in your pocket, and don’t make any sudden moves.
And when I think of that moment, I get angrier knowing that Trayvon’s parents gave him that very same talk…and it didn’t matter.
So for the last week, my hugs and kisses have been multiplying. My tone before they leave the house has been more serious, and heart has been heavy. Even as I write this I have tears in my eyes.
But ironically, it is because I have these wonderful, amazing, talented little people in my life…I continue to have hope.
I hope Trayvon’s parents still have hope too.
Just in case…I’ll be sending my prayers to them for a long time to come.