vendredi, mars 23, 2012

Trayvon Martin, my son and the haters

He's different.

That's what I thought when I looked across the dining room at Wegmans and saw my son hanging out with a group of adults three, four or perhaps five times his age.

It was an Amnesty International meeting. He was making notes, and talking, with a confidence born of many such evenings, to the women and men who surrounded him.

Do-gooders. Idealists. Dreamers.

As I've said before, one can trace an almost direct line from my activist grandmother and great-aunt to my son, who never had the joy of knowing them.

Tall, not a stellar athlete, prone to ask questions about obscure topics or talk to other kids in class about said topics when he is bored, my son stands out.

There have been times, many times, when he has been the target of bullies -- a kid who is the butt of mockery, taunts and denigration.

Like most mothers, I'm a tigress when it comes to making his case to school officials when the tail of the hurricane touches Mr. C.

Increasingly, however, I don't have to -- the boy doesn't need my help as much anymore. And the incidents (thus far this year) seem to be declining.

My son, it hardly need be said, is white.

After reading Michel Martin's essay this morning, the experience of a mother who has a son as precious to her as mine is to me, I pondered again the benefits having a white face, the sheer accident of being born on the Caucasian side of the color line, can bring with it.

One of the primary ones -- in most neighborhoods, under most circumstances, the teen doesn't have to be afraid.

Afraid, as Trayvon Martin was, as we know from the 911 tapes.

Powerless, because, as it turned out, he was being chased by a man who had a gun he wasn't supposed to have on a neighborhood watch (and when, my NRA friends, are you going to speak up against the permissive gun laws that allow people to walk the streets with weapons? The gun lobby doesn't listen to folk like me.)

A suspect in a neighborhood that had struggled with a string of robberies -- just because, most likely, he had black skin.

My son has been a victim of bullying because he walks to the beat of a different drum. Now, he said to me this past week, he chooses friends who will stand up for him.

But Trayvon Martin won't have the opportunity to discover his own inner music any more. There was no one to stand up for him on those streets as George Zimmerman gave chase.

We don't know what happened on the street where the teen was shot to death (though the 911 calls give us some idea).

But it's all too possible that Martin died for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

A place that many people of color know all too well.

A neighborhood where the life of a black man is held cheaper than that of others.

It's possible that a young man with a future that could have been as bright as my son's may be is dead -- for the "crime" of being a black man.

Or, to be more precise, a man. A man with a black skin.

Trayvon Martin was afraid.

And when I read about last moments of his life, I am, too.


For all of us.

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