i am not trayvon martin’s mother

 

 

Until the killing of Black men, Black mothers’ sons, is as important as the killing of White mothers’ sons, we who believe in freedom cannot rest.

Ella Baker, 1964

The following is my submission to We Are Not Trayvon Martin

 *

I am not Trayvon Martin.

I am a 42 year-old white woman.

I am a mother, but I am not Trayvon’s mother.

I have two beautiful little girls. Their skin is white, like mine. They don’t see race. They don’t think about it. They don’t need to. They don’t yet know just how profound is the privilege of their ignorance.

I am not Trayvon’s mother. I have no fear when my daughters walks down the street in our neighborhood, nor any other. I have never worried that they might be perceived as a suspect of anything more sinister than forgetting their manners. Their presence, anywhere really, raises the suspicion of absolutely no one.

I am not Trayvon’s mother. I teach my children to run toward the authorities if they are ever in danger. I have never had to think about what the perception of them running away from a crime might be. They are always presumed innocent. 

I am not Trayvon’s mother. If one of my daughters puts her hand in her pocket, no one on God’s green earth imagines she’d be reaching for anything more dangerous than a hair elastic.

I am not Trayvon’s mother.

But it is my responsibility, as her contemporary, to do everything I can to understand what it is like to be her. To use whatever I have in my own arsenal that will help me empathize with her experience. To raise my girls to see the privilege inherent in their white skin and to use it to fight for its own demise.

To make them see and viscerally understand that none of us can be free until all are free. To show them by example that weeping over the tragic injustice of Trayvon’s death is not enough. To have them join me in taking up the mantle of unrelenting advocacy and tireless service to one another until the day that we are one people – without fear, without suspicion, without bigotry, visible or not.

I am not Trayvon’s mother.

My heart aches for her. She must live the rest of her days without her precious child, a fate I cannot fathom.

I am not Trayvon’s mother, but I walk with her, relentless in my faith that there will come a day that I can say that I am.

*

For a very different perspective, I invite you to click HERE  where my friend Karen at Confessions of an Asperger’s Mom writes of her son,  “In reality, I don’t know if that will be enough to keep him safe…to help him make it in this unjust society.  I can’t tell him my deepest fears.  He has enough of his own.”

9 thoughts on “i am not trayvon martin’s mother

  1. I love the way you wrote this. I have to admit something that is hard to say but is true – I’m hispanic. You can tell just by looking at me. Hispanics are judged harshly as well and considered as part of the Latino gang crews. I used to get that as I grew up. I worry for 4 of my children because they look Hispanic – I’m not worried about the other 2 because, well, they don’t. They lucked out with the European traits in my and their dad’s genetic make-up. But I shouldn’t have to worry about 4 and not worry about 2. I shouldn’t have to worry about any. I shouldn’t have to fear my children being in the wrong place at the wrong time. They get shunned enough because of their autism – they shouldn’t be shunned because of the way they look or the perceived notions of the public. They get judged now for looking different. Why is different a bad thing?

  2. Beautiful Jess! Absolutely beautiful! My heart aches for any mother who must live days without her precious child !

  3. Every once in a while…you really connect with someone. You know that even though you are very different, in some ways you are so much alike it’s uncanny. Knowingly, you get that person and you know that they get you …that you don’t have everything in common, but you have the important things in life in common.

    Jess you and I have never met in person. We will some day I just know that. And when we do it will be like sisters getting together that have known each other their whole lives.
    I love you! I love your girls.
    Thank you for getting this.
    Thank you for getting me.
    Thank you for sharing your life with me and so many others.
    Thank you for sharing my story.

    Love,
    Karen

  4. I am a bi-racial (black & white) woman. I was raised by the white side of my family and grew up in a country where black people are the majority. I didn’t grow up having any racial issues or biases at all. I grew up with people who are open and see beyond skin colour. I am now raising 2 black boys in a country where many people think they are something to be afraid of for no other reason than the shade of their skin. I tried for a long time after I moved here to believe that all the things I had heard about racial bigotry or tension were an exaggeration or just an issue of perspective or that the people who talked about it were “looking for it” … but sadly, that is not the case. Racism is very much alive and real. I have seen it and heard it and felt the sting of it.
    I was sad to read some of the comments on your FB status regarding this story and all the people who claim that race didn’t play a role at all.
    I could very easily be Trayvon Martins mother and it scares the crap out of me.

  5. good thoughts jess; I would hope that all mothers (parents) could reflect upon this in the same fashion and teach their children accordingly. and I just have to add that it’s really shameful and perverse that a lot of angry people are using this event to justify more brutality to other innocents.

  6. A friend sent me the following comment privately, but gave me her permission to print it here. I am grateful for her thoughtful response, as I am to all who have commented here.

    “Institutionalized racism is a powerful thing. It is also fairly invisible – more so to some than others. But it is everywhere. The achievement gap between African Americans and everybody else in our city alone is frightening, not to mention in the rest of the country. Racism is imbedded in our schools and we continue to fail our African American kids. We continue to expect less of them. We continue to see them as ‘other.’ Suggesting that racism doesn’t exist on many other levels is preposterous. That being said, Trayvon Martin could have been gay. He could have been homeless. He could have been a poor kid in a wealthy neighborhood. He could have been disabled. More than anything else, I think this whole tragedy has more to do with prejudice – which runs rampant in our society. Pre-conceived notions that guide each and every one of us through life. And unless we confront this prejudice and privilege that exists within us, we will never be able to change what flows the the veins of our society.

    Thanks for writing what you wrote.”

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