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Will Our Children Ever Be Safe from Racism in America?

When I was young, my parents would tell my older brothers all kinds of things to do in order to protect themselves from racism, such as "Don't run at night," "When you buy something, always ask for a receipt and bag," "If you get stopped in your car by the police, keep your hands on the steering wheel and don't reach for anything without asking first. And don't mouth off." At the time I wondered, "Do white parents tell their sons the same thing?"

I don't know, but I know black parents do, at least those who have a realistic view of race in America.

We're not so post-racial in America that black boys can walk at night to get some Skittles and a can of tea without suspicion. Trayvon Martin paid with his life for no other reason than he was a black boy out at night going to the store to get some Skittles and a can of tea. Because, in America, black boys are automatically suspect. Especially if they're out at night.

And if the killer lives in Florida and he's not black, he might be able to get away with shooting a black boy who just happened to be out at night going to the store to get some Skittles and a can of tea. So far, that's been George Zimmerman's fate, at least until tonight when it was announced that the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice opened an investigation into Zimmerman's shooting of Martin and his claim of self-defense. Left to their own devices, the Florida authorities had not seen fit to question or test Mr. Zimmerman. They probably think that black boys out at night going to get some Skittles and a can of tea must be suspicious, too.

I'm all for the presumption of innocence in our criminal justice system and giving the system a chance to do what it does. But from all accounts, the Florida system has failed Trayvon and his family thus far. But for the media attention, the Florida authorities would not have been inclined to look deeper into Zimmerman's claim of self-defense against a 17 year-old unarmed boy out at night to get some Skittles and a can of tea. Would they have been so reticent, to put it politely, or indolent and unconcerned, to put it precisely, had Trayvon been white? Somehow I doubt it.

Had Trayvon been my brother, nothing that my parents told my other brothers when they were young would have protected him in the situation he was in.

Will our children ever be safe from racism in America?


Glenn Verdult said…
Hello i am Glenn Verdult

I enjoy reading your articles

I am looking forward to read more..
Thanks, Glenn. Thanks for reading.
Mary's thoughts said…
Of course white parents do not have to warn their sons to not run at night or worry about being pulled over while driving within the law or a multitude of other common day-to-day activities. I keep hoping that with each generation it gets a little bit better and that our grandchildren will refer to others as "that girl" or "that boy" with no reference to color or ethnicity. The young children only see other young children. What do we need to do to keep that perspective our entire lives?
z said…
No, white people don't tell their kids to be careful of racism. From my experience we are blissfully unaware how we set the tone in everything. We are "normal" and anything different is "abnormal" or "suspect". Its been a great experience to try to view my race from another perspective and I urge all white people to try to do this, although I'm sure white people will call this racist. We are the experts on what is racist too. The frustrating thing about talking about the Martin shooting is the complete inability to criticize Zimmerman, in even the most minute way. I've made the point in some online discussions that he did things neighborhood watch training tells you not to do, such as carry a weapon. "He has a constitutional right." Ugh! Fact: Martin attacked Zimmerman. How do you know? Zimmerman said so. Ugh! We can easily imagine a young black thug attacking a white neighborhood saint, but can't bring ourselves to imagine a white man obsessed and fixating on punishing evildoers, the "assholes who always get away." The boy wasn't scared, he was "trying to look tough for his girlfriend." Keep in mind, only one person heard Zimmerman and Martin exchange words before becoming physically violent, Martin's friend on the phone. She contradicted Zimmerman as to who accosted whom. I'm rambling, so I'll just say, as white people, we need to do what Zimmerman never did, say to ourselves, "maybe theres another perspective here, maybe we don't set the standard of what is right, wrong, and suspicious."

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