Trayvon is my student…


Potamus and Russ, my best guy friend, co-worker, and teaching mentor

Potamus and Russ, my best guy friend, co-worker, and teaching mentor

We were playing in the backyard last night. Boof had gotten a new weed wacker and so we were trying to get some weeds trimmed down. We were drinking beer and hanging out and lovin’ on our little guy Potamus. It was a relaxed, happy, family-lovin’ type night. And then we came inside, and Potamus had randomly changed the channel to the news, and that’s when we heard: George Zimmerman found not-guilty.

I felt a lump in my throat and in my heart. I’m sad to say that I wasn’t shocked by the verdict, it seems that all these high profile cases end up not-guilty…I wonder if being high profile makes a jury take even more caution with “reasonable doubt,” but as far as I understood the facts of the case, manslaughter should have been chosen. Boof and I started talking about it, and he brought up the legal system, talking through all of these logistics of how cases are tried in the media vs. tried in a courtroom. And, I was only half-listening.

Because I kept thinking about my students. My lovely, beautiful, funny, intelligent, “at-risk-youth” who could, at some point, end up like Trayvon. They’ve smoked pot and stolen things and some have ended up in jail for weeks, months, or years. But they are beautiful people who do not deserve to be gunned down for walking home or ‘being in the wrong place at the wrong time’ like so many have suggested. My students, mostly those of color, are amazing people and deserve all the chances in the world to live and love and flourish. They don’t deserve to get stink-eye when entering a store, or to be followed, or to be assumed by dress or mannerisms or their past to be lesser than my white, home-schooled, middle-class students. I love each one of them as if they were my own rascally teenage son, and the thought that this could happen to them is maddening.

Over on Blacked. Bunched. Mass. Mom, she writes a beautifully powerful entry entitled Open Season on My Sons, in which she explores and explains the conversations that she will have to have with her sons about this case and their own safety going forward. And it got me thinking about my own son, who is white as milk, and will grow up with everything it means to be a privileged white middle-class male. Will I be pro-active enough to have these conversations with him, about guns, and safety, and not stereotyping someone based off fear and style of clothing and color of skin? I know I’ve thought long and hard about having conversations with him about sexuality, but I hadn’t rehearsed these race conversations in my mind, yet. I’ve been thinking the fact that my son goes to a diverse daycare, which will end up in a diverse school, and our friends are diverse, that he would just know that black boys/men are just as worthy as he is. But I don’t think that passivity is good enough anymore. I will have conversations where he will hear, directly from my mouth. Maybe I’ll start with introducing him to my students, who are lovely, intelligent, hilarious, beautiful, individuals, despite the other labels that society has given them.

How are you reacting to the verdict? What conversations about race do you have with your children?

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3 Comments

  1. Thank you for the ping and thank you for your reflections. It is the “stop and think” moments like this that will slowly but surely lurch us forward to a better space as a nation. Thank you for this beautifully written post.

  2. It’s impending for me, of course. We’ve touched base on it but its difficult for *me* when GH and I share starkly different views on race, white privilege, and political correctness. I live him; he’s a great father but I don’t agree with his upbringing and Southern views. I hope he just stands back and lets me take this on like everything else he knows to do in my parenting.

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