I Wonder if Trayvon’s Parents Told Him…
“That he needed to be careful with white folks. That they couldn’t be trusted and that he was going to have to work harder for everything he got in life. He would need to be twice as good to make it. The system was designed for him to fail and racism still exists. He could dress like them, talk like them, and act like them but at the end of the day he is still just a nigger in their eyes.”
These are comments I heard throughout my childhood, not necessarily by my parents but throughout the general community. I learned very early that being black meant I would have to watch my back, work harder, keep my eyes wide open, and expect to be mistreated and overlooked for promotion.
When I got older, I experienced some of the exact same things that my community had warned me about, and I experienced the exact opposite. Some of my worst experiences with class and race came at the hands of other African Americans. Some of my best friends were white and they welcomed me into their homes and families with open arms. By the time I entered college, I was ignoring the warnings of my ancestors and community. Yes, racism, classim, and sexism existed, but I was going to make it because of my hard work, attitude, and apitude.
I even begin to challenge how I wanted to raise my own kids. Would I give them the speeches that I had heard growing up? When they came home from school and said someone else was chosen as captain of the team, president of the club, or scholar of the year, would I tell them that the decision was due to racism? In my mind, I quickly respond no. I will not develop a system of racial inferiority in my children by explaining to them why their skin tone makes them cursed. This is 2012 and people are not still judging others by their skin tone right?
Well…when I read about Trayvon Martin being shot in the gated community where his father lived because he looked suspicious and was wearing a hoodie, holding a pack of skittles, and drinking an iced tea, I realize that now, it is really hard for me to answer that question. I want to believe that I grew up in a better racial environment than my parents who grew up in a better racial environment than their parents, and that my children will grow up in a better racial environment than me. Yet, is that wishful thinking? Am I just being foolish to think that I can raise my kids to believe that they will be accepted by the content of their character and not the color of their skin? That there is no neighborhood where they can casually walk the streets, talk on their cell phones, and not be shot? That regardless of their first name, they will not be profiled on their job applications? That a certain dress code is not necessary and that policeman will protect them if they ever encounter trouble?
I really, really want to be optimistic, but honestly, I am just not sure. I want to think that when the time comes for my husband and I to enter parenthood, we will know what to say to our children about racism, profiling, and opportunity.
I just have to wonder, when thinking about my own situation, what Trayvon’s parents said to him when he was growing up. Better yet, I wonder what Mr. Zimmerman’s parents said to him when he was growing up. This is 2012, right?
Excellent piece Daneille. I often wonder the same thing. Am I being too lax. Do I put too much faith in people who doesn’t even deserve it? I’m starting to question myself. Thanks for taking the time out to write this article. It is a great read.
You are welcome. I am definitely pondering these questions and trusting God to bring me peace.
Hi Danielle, I still believe that we do live an a better racial environment than our parents. I believe that overall, (big picture) is all more racially tolerant. I also believe, unfortunately, that there will always be pockets of people who are intolerant. Those small pockets of individuals that exist is why we do have to continue to share words of caution with our children and be cognizant of ourselves, even as adults. These blatant acts of injustice are the ones that make it to mainstream media, but those everyday occurrences that you mentioned of tolerance & friendship as a child and college student don’t get publicized. I also believe that our current political climate has provided a more heightened awareness to the racism and lack of tolerance that does exist in in our country. However, my mindset (and the one I will instill in my future children) is that we will never walk in fear or inferiority. Not to sound super spiritual (but it’s just part of who I am), I believe that regardless of what others may feel & try to do, that at the end of the day it is not up to them what the path of my life looks like. When I do the best I can to be the best I can, then my Father alone determines my fate. I’m not saying that I won’t share words of caution, sadly that’s just what has to be done. But in a louder voice, I will share that our faith alone rests in the arms of the Father.
Very good, Trinita. You and I are thinking along the same lines. I have gone back and forth on “racial” teaching and how it intersects with my faith and how to walk in confidence that all things are possible, as well as being wise about the state of our nation.
Thanks for sharing!
Danielle, it is true, we are living in the last and evil days. It doesn’t matter what color your skin is, people are just mean. We have to pray just to make it through each day. Whites are killing whites, Blacks are killing Blacks, and all other races are involved. It is sad, but tell your children, just live each day like it is your last and always, always have your heart right with God. He will keep a hedge of protection around us and them. You never know what tomorrow will bring for we only have today. Love, your Sister in Christ
Well said. I believe that when the time is right to have those “talks” with my children and nieces and nephews, God will order my words.
As I pray that your words are ordered to speak to the young, black men in your family, pray that mine are ordered to speak what God instructs me to speak to my son. Marek and I discussed this years ago when the joy of having a little, black boy set in.
Growing up as a black female, we have no need to be told of what the world expects from us, and we have no need to be talked to about how we have to work hard to prove ourselves; our discussions from our Father’s (if they were even around) were about keeping our legs closed, keeping our name clear from filth that could cause boys to wanna “have their way” now, and look for an “unused car” later. It was about doing your very best and know that Mama and Daddy loves you no matter what, and you can always come home when all else fails. So, when the talks come to address to our oldest as to what proverbs we need him to take with him each and every day, it both disturbs me and saddens me that on that day, we will have to not only say how proud we are of him, how he makes us smile and how we enjoy the seed of our labor in bringing him up the way he should go, but we will have to follow it up with “Son, you continue to make us and God proud, BUT, there are men and women out there who STILL will see you as a threat- still will see you as a dark figure that they have to set aside and demand extra from. These men and women don’t see what we see and don’t hear what we hear day in and day out. Ultimately, they don’t see the ‘IT IS VERY GOOD’ that God saw from the beginning, and will see to the end of all your days. So, with that being said, and I know you do this already, you have to run faster, jump higher, grade better, dress nicer, than your lighter friends. And just know that your Mother and Father are rooting for you, God’s rooting and with you always, even when the world has categorized you, without even seeing YOU”.