I owe my wife an apology. When America first became aware of the tragic killing of Trayvon Martin we had a difference of opinion. As parents of a 10-year-old boy we obviously had very strong feelings about what happened and how unfair it was. However, we differed on what to tell our son, as far as how to carry himself in general and especially in light of what happened.
Our disagreement hinged on appearance. She felt that while Trayvon was justified in wearing a hoodie in the rain, she felt uneasy about letting our son walk the street in one now. Me being the more militant minded one who attended an all boys high school in the ’80s just blocks from Central Park during the famous jogger trial felt he should be able to wear his hoodie regardless. Why should white girls playing lacrosse be able to come home from practice wearing their hooded sweatshirts but if my son was coming home from track practice wearing his school paraphernalia he should be profiled?
She argued that it didn’t matter if we were right, she wanted our son alive. And if adjusting his appearance would increase his chance of making it home safely then so be it. I argued that if we gave in to that then where would it stop? How can we fight racial profiling if we just change our behavior to accommodate their prejudice and insecurity?
We were particularly tense because we had just started allowing our son to go to the store unescorted. He had been pleading for more independence and we reluctantly had begun letting him run errands to the corner grocer with a set of strict instructions about crossing the street, speaking to strangers and dealing with the police. But how he dressed just to get a loaf of bread was the last thing on our minds. Then it became all we could talk about.
But as I sit here at my computer more than a year later reading the reactions to the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the death of Trayvon Martin, I am gripped in fear. My soul is laminated in a coat of hopelessness at the thought of my son, who is presently enjoying a vacation 1500 miles away, being engaged on the street by someone who finds him suspicious because of his appearance and kills him. I fear that there is nothing I can tell him that will prepare him for the George Zimmermans of the world who will not see a bright young man who likes to play the flute and come up with business plans in his spare time. They won’t see my baby if he is walking down the street in his hooded sweat shirt–or his suit and tie for that matter–they will see a threat. A potential criminal up to no good. And his life will always be in danger as long as these irrational fears are reinforced in a court of law.
This reality has crippled me inside. The sliver of hope I had in our justice system has been obliterated and the thought of Zimmerman’s acquittal makes me want to burn all of my son’s hoodies tonight. His next hood will come with a PhD and six figures of debt. No more Skittles. M&Ms or nothing. No ice tea for him. Lemonade is a popular drink and it still is. Walking is overrated and driving while Black is wrought with as many problems. And clearly being out in the rain is more hazardous to your health than we ever imagined. Stay home. Forever. We’ll convert the garage. He will telecommute to an experimental high school for gifted Black boys that want to live to be old enough to vote, assuming they will still have that right by the time he is 18.
I sound irrational you say? When a grown man is allowed to walk away from killing an unarmed boy in his own neighborhood I have to treat this world like the neo-dystopia that it is. “The Purge” is real and I will sacrifice my pride for life of my children every time.
Get more coverage of The George Zimmerman Acquittal on the Interactive One Network: