I hesitate to even begin to speak of this travesty, because I wasn’t there the night Trayvon was killed. I wasn’t present during the trial to listen to the facts and arguments of both sides. I wasn’t in the room while the jury deliberated, eventually handing down a “not guilty” verdict.
Trayvon’s death has brought an uncomfortable truth back into the light—we are racist. Little has changed. His death asks that we examine who we are as individuals and as a country. Trayvon’s death begs that we and our society change.
I work with people who have largely adopted and parent transracially (a child of a racial or ethnic group different than theirs), primarily white parents (73%) adopting nonwhite children. I’m also a white mama of a multiracial family. Because of what I do and how I live, race is always a consideration, an issue… For example, as his mother I am charged with teaching my Hispanic son to:
- Embrace his cultural heritage, authentically feel connected to his racial and ethnic group,
- Understand that although there is no racial hierarchy, people continue to support a social construct of one,
- Understand the stereotypes and biases that will be assumed to be true about him, and that people may seek to limit him because of their beliefs,
- Understand racism,
- Drive under the speed limit,
- Strictly adhere to curfews,
- Park his attitude and remain clam even though flooded with anxiety, in the presence of white authority,
- Understand how he is viewed by others, because he is brown (and feels white),
- Be cautious in predominately white neighborhoods and communities, even though he has white parents (he is not accepted as white), and
- Use Spanish in the presence Hispanic people (he is seen as Hispanic, and speaking Spanish is an expectation).
I am not Trayvon Martin, but in a sense I do parent him. And as his mother, as a compassionate human, I care with every fiber of my being. I ache to keep him safe—physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. I will continue to advocate for others to accept and embrace him for the fine young man he is.
For Discussion: How has Trayvon’s death impacted you? What can you do as a parent to arm your child, and to advocate for change?