I Am Not Trayvon Martin

3 comments

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?

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Laura Dennis July 17, 2013 at 3:06 am

Yes, racism still exists, and I think it’s perhaps Whites who are the ones who would like to argue otherwise. As a White American living in White Serbia, I may be the same race, but even here I am seen by some as the oppressor–because of my nationality. When it comes time, I’ll teach my Serbian-American (or American-Serbian?) kids some of the hows and the whys–and yes, to always speak Serbian around Serbs!

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Liz July 17, 2013 at 1:24 am

Thanks for your post! I found you through the Open Adoption group on Google.

I grieve for Trayvon and his family. I have been trying to write about this, too, and have held back, but not because I wasn’t there. I think that whenever an act of racism is committed, it reflects on ALL white people and we all need to take responsibility and respond. So I feel like it IS my issue and I need to say something. I just haven’t found the words yet. The day the verdict came down was the day before my daughter’s first birthday. I was half-distracted in trying to process the verdict with plans for her party, and then half-distracted in trying to be at her party with grief over the verdict, and, really, not just the verdict but his murder and the relentless march of profiling-incarceration-murder of young black men in this country. So that is how it has impacted me, and as for my response and parenting of my little one? Still working on it.

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Linda Porter July 16, 2013 at 10:42 am

It has caused me to own how I, as a member of the black community, can work to be more open minded regarding discussions of race relations.

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