On November 4, 2008, history was made. The glass ceiling shattered beyond what was previously imagined as the most powerful man in the world was of African descent and could identify with the often forgotten population, African Americans. It seemed like the country had undergone an intense race relations course and the years of historic protests for equality finally paid off. There was a family in the White House that resembled those who protested and fought to be treated fairly despite their skin color. Now Black and Brown boys were told they could be anything including the President of the United States without their parents crossing their fingers behind their backs. There was an example of the life they could live without the restraints of society telling them what they couldn’t do.
The one month anniversary of the murder of Trayvon Martin just passed. He and his mother have probably had talks about his dreams and aspirations as she may have told him also he could President one day. Talks about school and his future plans in college over dinner most likely took place, as well as embarrassing conversations about girls and sex too. Unfortunately, Trayvon’s murder has shed light on unsettling conversations many mothers will have to have with their sons.
The reality of raising African American boys is that even when they’re just walking to the store for candy and juice, they’re still seen as “suspicious” or “dangerous”. Mothers have to raise their sweet, innocent boys knowing some day they’ll have to explain why this country who promotes liberty and justice for all, often overlooks and denies those basic rights to the young black male. Mothers will watch their sons grow up no longer wanting to hold Mom’s hand while walking into school or watching them play their first basketball game, knowing the conversations will have to happen. Mothers of black young males will have conversations white mothers will never have to have with their sons. They’ll never have to give extra instructions and advice when their son is leaving to hang out with friends or to casually drive their car. Conversations about Trayvon Martin, Sean Bell, Oscar Grant III, Tim Stansbury, and all the other young black males who were unarmed and shot for being “suspicious” will have to be a conversation topic between mothers and sons. The conversation of the alarming numbers of deadly altercations between police officers and young minority men will have to happen. The fact that there’s a disproportionate number of killings of young black males by police officers versus young white males is appalling, yet will need to be talked about. The conversation of what to do when they’re stopped by a cop has to happen. Keep your hands in plain view. If you’re stopped while driving, pull over in a very public place with witnesses. Don’t make sudden movements.
We’ll never know the conversations Sybrina Fulton had with her son Trayvon. Sadly he’s become apart of the larger unfortunate discourse of America’s ugly vendetta on the young black male. How can we fix this? What will happen next? Answers, solutions, and opinions may vary, but it can all start with conversations with our young, sweet, innocent sons.
words by: Valerye Griffin (@valmarie)