Trayvon Martin Tragedy: 5 Important Lessons
An unarmed black teen is dead, and the man who shot him is free. The black community is shocked and dismayed, and my daughter is totally oblivious.
My little girl is 6 and has no idea who Trayvon Martin was or who George Zimmerman is. She doesn’t know that America is a racially polarized place, and “racial profiling” means nothing to her. While I’ve been riveted to CNN, she’s been laughing at the Disney Channel. She lives in a beautiful, colorless bubble.
But I have to bust her beautiful bubble. Although I hate to do it, as the mother of an African-American child it’s my duty to make sure that she is wide awake to the injustices in our society. I have to warn her and prepare her. She has to know that even though people of color continue to be victimized, we are not eternal victims.
Somehow as a mom, I’ll have to find the courage to share this tragedy with my daughter. And when I share it, it will be so that she can be armed with truth. Here are five things that I’ll share with my daughter and five things that every black mom needs to share with her child:
- I’ll tell her to expect the unexpected. I’ll help my daughter understand that even though she is a beautiful person inside and out, everyone won’t see her beauty. Some will just see her color and they won’t like it. Some will even judge her based on the smallest things, like the hoodie she may choose to wear.
- I’ll tell her that she must be slow to judge. As a black person my daughter will be prejudged daily. But she can’t perpetuate hate by prejudging others. She must be fair and weigh their thoughts, hearts and actions before making a determination. Perhaps young Trayvon would still be alive if this approach had been taken.
- I’ll tell her that she can make a difference. Yes, Trayvon’s life has been lost. And the lives of countless others like Emmet Till and Oscar Grant have been snuffed out prematurely. But African Americans are not voiceless victims. We still make a difference with our vote, with our dollars and with our voices. I’ll share with her how the NAACP is asking citizen to make a difference by signing this petition to have the Department of Justice file civil rights charges. I’ll tell her how Twitter users harnessed the power of social media to keep a juror in the Trayvon Martin case from profiting from this tragedy through a book deal.
- I’ll tell her that she can fight to change the system. I’ll encourage my daughter to look deep inside and see how her God-given talents can be used in a career that makes change. Just think of how things would be different if we had more black police officers, lawyers, judges and lawmakers. Our justice system is clearly flawed. Perhaps my child can use her talents to help fix the flaws.
- And finally, I’ll tell her that she must own her America. I’ll let her know that although hate and injustice still lives, America belongs to her. She is a citizen, she has a voice and she has rights. No matter what, she can’t allow herself to be bullied out of her citizenry. Not even by people with privileges and guns.
Yes, I’ll talk to my daughter about Trayvon and what it means to be a black youth in America. And I’ll talk to her with hope in my heart and pride in my voice, as I share that there is still hope for our country.
Yolanda Darville is a wife, mom and freelance writer focusing on issues that make a difference. To read more of her writings connect with her on Twitter.