Tuesday, March 20, 2012

If you're not horrified, there is something wrong.
Finally, a Grand Jury in Seminole County will take up the case of Trayvon Martin's death. He was killed on February 26 by George Zimmerman, who invoked Florida's 'stand your ground' law, and is claiming self defense, despite the fact that Trayvon was unarmed, and Mr. Zimmerman was the one doing the pursuing. Finally, the Justice Dept. and FBI have opened an investigation.
But what can one say to Trayvon's mother, and family, except we're sorry that a tragic act of violence robbed your son of his life.
I guess that a good number of us think of our own children whenever we hear of  an event so devastating, and for a moment we imagine the immeasurable pain Trayvon's parents are experiencing; heartbroken for them, and, if we've been graced with reasonably healthy, happy offspring, we feel thankful that we've all made it this far in one piece.
I've always considered myself lucky. Not in the traditional-soccer-mom kind of way, but more, because I was lucky enough to be the mom of a multi-racial, multi-cultural family.
Our family expanded by two when the kids we gave birth to were teenagers. It was a good thing that my husband and I had some 'parenting' under our belt, otherwise we'd have been a bit unprepared.
We went from a family of four to a family of six, but more than falling in love with kids who were already works-in-progress, we had the unique gift of getting to learn about our own safe little world through the eyes of someone who didn't share our life experiences or perspectives. We got to learn (a little) first hand about what the world looked like if you weren't white kids from the burbs.
Up until then, I'd always felt a little smug satisfaction at belonging to an upscale 'diverse' community.  I was completely full of crap. And naive...so when my teenage sons (one white, one black) were walking home from school one afternoon followed by a police car, creeping along behind them at about 3 mph. I had no idea what to think. My husband and I went outside to find our youngest son (one I gave birth to) outraged and angry, while  our newly adopted son was in the process of explaining to the cop that yes, he did live in the gray house, and the adults charging out the front door were, in fact, his family. The cop had seen a black kid and a white kid in a neighborhood where there were generally only white kids, and decided that my teens were up to no good. He was dumbfounded that we challenged him- and acted as if he had behaved heroically, rather than harassing our children.
I learned my son was used to this. That he'd dealt with it his whole life. There was very little shock, or anger- he just had coping skills. Coping skills I didn't have- and in a heartbeat, I got a tiny snapshot sample of what he'd had to put up with for his entire 14 years of life. He was used to it; and briefly, I got to see another side of  my neighborhood and community. One that was ugly, stupid, sinister, and judgemental. Maybe we learned to cope, too- because the police car presence in the neighborhood happened a few more times- every time the PD would get a new wet-behind-the-ears rookie, he'd go through the drill until he'd get yelled at by my 6'4" crazy-eyed husband, who was extremely protective of his kids.
My kids are all grown up now. They're mostly healthy, happy, and are OK that they didn't have a soccer mom or little league dad, instead they were stuck with nutty, quite emotional  parents who taught them to challenge authority even if it pissed people off. Especially if it pissed people off.   Sometimes I think about lessons I learned from them, and some of the gifts that parenthood has given me. Most of us don't get to step into the shoes of others. We can travel and observe, read and explore, but often, unless you're on the receiving end of a different perspective, you have no idea. You can't put on a different skin and live in it a while, and given the opportunity, I doubt many of us would choose to. It's taken me a long time to know that I don't know, but I do know what happened to Trayvon Martin was a crime.
It's easy to slam Florida, their idiotic laws, and the weak-minded authorities who basically had to be threatened before they took action. None of that will heal Trayvon's mother's broken heart. It's just that if we don't recognize this for the violent crime it is, and take steps to fix it, every parent is at greater risk of losing their kids to an unstable asshole with a gun.

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