|My sons are not expendable|
As a result of the literal interpretation of Stand Your Ground statutes in Florida and other states, the eight-year-old kid I regularly mentor has to grow up learning early- and mid-20th century post-slavery survival techniques, in addition to reading and writing and arithmetic.
Because of those statutes, combined with Right to Carry gun laws, my young adult son gets to raise his own kids with the possibility that someone who looks like him can be bullied, then gunned down for no reasons other than the color of his skin, being in the wrong place, and/or having an uppity attitude – just like 100 years ago.
As for me, I get to grow old knowing my sons are considered by a lot of people as largely expendable. That they can be gunned down out of someone’s fear of their black skin or in anger – and our court system just might not hold anyone accountable, shrug its collective shoulders and point to the letter of the law.
Admittedly, there has been significant progress in some quarters as it relates to racism at the individual level. Yet young African American males still remain the pariah of a nation that regularly exports values like liberty and justice for all around the world but systematically curbs and in some cases ignores those same rights on our own soil.
People claim incidents like what happened to Trayvon Martin are ‘complicated’ and ‘tragic’ and insist ‘race played no factor.’ Yet this historically familiar scenario plays out time and again for African Americans on the wrong side of a gun. Or not too long ago, a noose.
|Trayvon Martin vigil at Sojourner Truth monument|
Why do laws and human rights always seem to be a moving target when it comes to justice for people of color? While some white people are fed up, others crack jokes like Zimmerman’s defense attorney Don West did after a trial in which someone lost his life. Still others, such as Florida State prosecuting attorney Angela B. Corey, play politics by delivering a losing side ‘thank you speech’ that featured all the pompous platitudes displayed at a post-Super Bowl press conference.
Thanks to the Zimmerman verdict, my sons have to contemplate which white man (or woman) with a gun on his hip might follow, intimidate, harass and then shoot them. And wonder what are the chances the shooter will bear no significant consequences for his actions. Especially if there are no witnesses. After all, African American males seem to be considered suspect in general. Zimmerman’s exoneration implicitly suggests that if followed by a strange white man, black men and boys have no right to fear for their lives, talk back or take action when challenged on an empty street.
My sons get to re-live a time when keeping your head down, saying, “yes ‘um,” and never, ever losing their temper to any white person increases the odds of survival.
And me? I get the chance to hear people say, “You’re overreacting and paranoid. None of that Jim Crow stuff could ever happen again; this is America.” But it’s already happening, in obvious and not so obvious ways.
Still, I believe we all can do better; we just need more people talking about and addressing issues of race, rather than insisting no problem exists. Do it for your children. For my sons.They are not expendable.