The case is everywhere. That of Trayvon Martin, a seventeen year old African-American boy who went out to a convenience store to buy himself a snack, and was shot dead by a neighborhood watchman.
Seeing his picture, reading more of the details, hearing his screams on the 911 tapes, I fast forward fourteen years from now to when R is seventeen, and sob. As the mother of a brown-skinned boy, I am truly shaken.
When my son is old enough, we will have to have the conversation all black and brown boys must have about the police. One day he will have to realize that the men in blue he thinks are currently the good guys, out to protect him, might very well not have his back at all. We will have to tell him never to talk back, to be completely deferential, and to keep his hands in plain sight. It won't matter how intelligent he is, how well he speaks, where his mother went to school, the color of Daddy's skin or where he works. While his white friends might be wise to heed the same advice, for Riley it will have to be as ingrained and automatic as knowing his address.
Of course, I pray that he is never stopped by the police, as these situations have the potential to go so horribly, horribly wrong.
But this case isn't just about black and brown boys and the police. With the f-ed gun laws in this country, and especially in states like sunny Florida, any lunatic with a weapon could decide based on skin color and the choice to wear a hoodie to shoot now and ask questions later. If he's suspicious, it's self-defense, after all.
Those who want to discount or even defend racism will say that if you don't want to be found suspicious, then don't dress/talk/act that way.
To them I say, it doesn't matter. Legit African-American men in suits still make some ladies grab their purses and scurry across the street.
Once President Obama was elected, people claimed we had entered a post-racial America. Perhaps in some ways, and in some sections of the country we have. Black/white marriages continue to rise and more people are more tolerant of mixed marriages. Still, despite our 44th president, this country feels like a racial tinderbox. Every fool with fingers and internet access is now able to shoot intellectual sewage into cyberspace, letting loose all the racial vitriol held in check by political correctness and the lack of a platform.
I hope that young Mr. Martin's death opens the doors to a national conversation about both race and guns. May justice be served. And please may it not be another one of the thousands of black deaths where the not black* killer goes scot free.
As a mommyblogger, I want to call on other parents in the blogging world to do something, post something on their blogs. It doesn't have to be big. It doesn't matter if you're not political. Urge people to sign a petition http://www.change.org/petitions/prosecute-the-killer-of-our-son-17-year-old-trayvon-martin. Maybe you don't know the details of the case. Maybe you're not convinced he was innocent. Listen. Read. Think of your son, or daughter, for that matter begging for his/her life. Think of the unimaginable grief of Trayvon's parents. As parents we cannot tolerate violence against children. Not from their peers, and certainly not from adults. We protect each others' children when they are little. We stop them from running too far down the sidewalk, from stepping in front of a swing. Let's not stop when they're teens.
Or when they're black.
*George Zimmerman is Latino.