Tell them that their family will have to host press conferences where they will cry in front of clicking cameras and microphones, while being asked all sorts of degrading questions about your life. And when their mother tearfully recounts how they liked doing normal everyday teenage stuff like talking to girls and eating, tell them that their mother will be interrupted by some insensitive reporter, who will inquire about your desire for chicken. And then they will have to sit there, stupefied as the offending reporter and her cohorts have a chuckle at the expense of your family’s pain.
Tell them that half of America will either ignore your story or try to find some justification for why you had it coming. They will talk about the time you got suspended from school and speak blazingly online about any and all associations of Black men and crime. When that is not enough, they will derail and dismiss the idea that race played a factor, considering your assailant is a Hispanic white. Tell them that there will be no Nancy Grace. And that more than likely the only people to champion your cause in the media will be Black journalists and activists and that your parents will have to appeal/petition/ beg on their own for FBI and the US Department of Justice to intervene. And almost 3 weeks later, their killer will still not be charged.
And finally, tell them that their death will not be an isolated event; instead it will follow a long line of other “suspicious” black men who have been murdered from Emmitt Till, to Oscar Grant to Sean Bell to Amadou Diallo to Troy Davis and many, many more. This may seem too graphic but the children deserve the truth about the world in which they are being reared in, and to know that it is unequal, unfair and yes dangerous for them. They need to know that racism is not about what they do, how they talk or even how they act. It’s about the color of one’s skin. Period.
The point is that we cannot have a fighting chance against these injustices if we continue to bury our heads in the sands as if we can only achieve them away. The only thing that seems to achieve is raising another generation to do the same. Meanwhile children like Martin will continue to be murdered and kids like Austin will be scared by the realization that it could have easily been them. Fact is that white supremacy and racism are constructs that are only allowed to operate when people either buy in to them or say nothing about their existence. This is why Martin’s family has been denied justice. And if we don’t teach the children now about this very stark reality, it will continue to be the reason why they will be denied justice and equality too.
Charing Ball is the author of the blog People, Places & Things.