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The American Black Males “Don’t” List…”Don’t Act Threatening”

How many of us white parents have instructed our young sons about the company they keep? How about driving too fast, keeping their grades up, and studying before watching TV or playing games?  Have you warned your son lately about the dangers of running with anything in his hand or running at all in public?

Trayvon Martin Protest - Sanford

Trayvon Martin Protest - Sanford (werthmedia)

I was very moved this morning, when I heard Jonathan Capehart on “Morning Joe” talking about the warnings he received as a young, black male close to Trayvon Martin’s age and earlier…these exact warnings, and others.

What an unimaginably perverse world these young African-American men, children really, live in, when 17 is as innocent as carrying Skittles and Iced Tea and rushing to get home for the NBA playoffs and as menacing as being pursued and killed by a “vigilant citizen”.

Our own adopted son, who is brown and a Pacific Islander, was well aware of the need to keep a low profile when he was driving, especially when he wore a baseball cap and drove his rusted out red(ish) car. “Mom, cops always pull over the black kid with the red car and baseball cap, even if they’re not doing anything.” (nor even Black…but simply “shaded” a beautiful brown).

He has been strong armed and attempts made, by clientele, to bar him from some “hangouts” in Ithaca, NY. Called “Black”, and most recently “Mexican”, the wonderful ability he has to identify with most of the rest of the world culturally, is seen as a flaw and a threat in white Western nations.

I marvel that we, his father and mother, who are white, can travel so many places in the Middle East and be welcomed into homes of strangers, yet our son has never felt welcomed in his adopted country.

What adds insult to injury in the Trayvon Martin case, is that the killer, though known, has not yet been arrested, but Trayvon’s body was held for three days while drug testing was done.

Some of you can’t imagine this happening to your sons, but I can, and so can thousands of other mom’s in the Western world: Mom’s of foreign, dark children; Mom’s of African-American kids; Mom’s of Muslim boys…the list goes on.

We make laws to prevent terror, but we remain terrified and suspicious of people unlike ourselves. I’ve learned this is true of non-whites as well. We truly cannot adequately step into another person’s shoes without intentionally changing course, and changing course feels like a betrayal to “our own”.

Some Americans continue looking the other way, telling me that racism is a thing of the past here.

Well, it’s not, nor will it be,  until extraordinary understanding and compassion have replaced fear and loathing in our hearts.

Under ‘suspicion’: The killing of Trayvon Martin – PostPartisan – The Washington Post.

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