The day after the Trayvon Martin verdict I saw a picture of a young African American boy holding a sign saying “I am Trayvon Martin”. Seeing that picture hit me in the gut. This child’s parents were going to have to have frank discussions with him on a multitude of topics such as how people may react to you if you wear certain clothes or how you need to respond if the police stop you. And even though the child looked to be about 10 my guess is that those discussions have already begun with him.
I think about what a burden these parents have to carry. They have to teach their children that they are always at risk of being treated differently than others. And not only that but by being different their life maybe at risk. I listened to a mom on tv describe how she was teaching her teenage daughter how to respond if a boy she was with was stopped by the police. She was teaching her ways to de-escalate the situation. In order to keep their children safe, parents of children of color have to teach them hypervigilance and de-esclation skills. And I can only think of how sad that is. For the parents, for their kids, and for society as a whole.
There are no easy answers here. I can only hope that recent events have started a meaningful dialogue. I know that this dialogue is scary for people. But I challenge people to find a way to have these discussions. Even when it is hard. Because nothing will change if we can’t own that there is a serious problem here and it is a problem that affects all of us.