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i have one. and i’ve often worried about him. i haven’t worried that he’ll not be successful. no. i’ve often worried that someone would hurt him simply because he’s a black male. now that he’s 6’4” and a chunk of lean muscle, you could say that i have nothing to worry about–he could hurt somebody.
but when my brother walks around in a hoodie, i don’t see an agressor. i see the little boy who once kicked me in my shins coz i told him it was time to stop playing and come inside. i see the baby whose lips were always dry, necessitating a layer of vaseline as per our mother’s request. and i see a man who (in seconds) can multiply large numbers in his head, dress to kill without a fashion consult, and pray to God sincerely.
unfortunately, i don’t view all black men this way. i know what it’s like to be afraid, to avoid eye contact, to quicken my steps. and i wish it weren’t so. am i part of the problem? i think so. and i also think it’s bigger than me. and i’m not sure of how to fix it. but i know justice would help.
we grew up in a typical, racism-conscious, black family. my dad talked about ways he’d been mistreated, not to make us afraid but aware. he had white friends (for real) as did we but he wasn’t about to raise ignorance. and both parents used every possible moment as a teaching moment. as we drove by a gas station on the way to church one saturday morning, they spotted a few young kids hanging out in front of a gas station. they weren’t black kids but the teaching arrived nonetheless.
don’t let me ever see you just hanging out like that, loitering. do you understand?
they spoke specifically to my brother and younger sister. there are four of us in total but that moment was for the younger two who were, presumably, close to the loiterer’s ages. my siblings responded with a tone of yes. sure. (but where in the world did that come from?)
we all knew where it came from. it came from the already shared knowledge that black ppl don’t get treated the same way so black ppl need to step up their game. and in a couple simple sentences, our parents communicated what we already knew so that we wouldn’t be tempted to forget because forgetting could lead to an alternate fate. those gas station loiterers could be there a while. we’d be chased away by now or driven away, back seat, handcuffs.
i wish trayvon martin had simply experienced what could be now used as a teaching moment. but that would boil it all down to don’t wear hoodies at night, while black or something else as equally ridiculous. but the brother’s dead. to make this simplistic would be disrespectful in the least and reminiscent of when someone told a story for the children at a church i attended many years ago, recounting the life of emmett till, and somehow concluding that the moral of the story was to obey your parents…because if emmett had obeyed his mother, he would still be alive. !?!? i know. ridiculous. a friend and i sat there dumbfounded. that is NOT the moral.
and not wearing a hoodie isn’t the teaching moment my parents would drive home today. they’d probably focus on being aware of your surroundings and running if you sense someone following you. but they’d focus much more on the stuff that we can’t seem to change–ppl’s opinions, and the lack of justice (the presence of which could do wonders…but this far out, its possible good effects are fewer.) we’d probably have a long dining table discussion about the tougher, more complex issues because, as our mother likes to say, we’re all adults now and “don’t let me ever” moments aren’t as meaningful.
but what, really, are your options when the aggressor has a gun? my formative years were lived in a context where guns=fear & death. that relationship stuck with me so deeply that in my mid-twenties, when i handled a friend’s gun, i felt dirty. no offense to those responsible citizens who carry guns. i will probably always be opposed to that idea. i’m also opposed to the death penalty but that’s another day’s post. at my parent’s dining table, the question of how we respond when our agressor has a gun would possibly lead us to a discussion on where we live, areas we don’t ever want to live in, and always being ready…to die.
because you can’t change all public opinion and you can’t raise the dead. and for now, brothers are suspicious…even to sisters.
(this isn’t all i have to say on this issue. just some preliminary thoughts i had to get out of my head.)