It is time to confront the whole Trayvon Martin mess. I have taken too long to do so, and can only plead that the issue hits too close to home for me to have written calmly about the issue. You see, I have an African American son. There he is in his cowboy hat from our synagogue Purim festival: my Jack.
Sure, Jack’s just three years old, and I should have no more worries than whether I am using bribery too heavily while trying to get him potty trained before vacation this spring. I should be worrying about potty training, getting him the best schooling, kissing booboos and the like. But for the past few days I’ve been worrying about Jack when he reaches 17, when he is like Trayvon Martin, walking the streets while being black.
Those who read Bloggingblue know that racism is real. We’ve seen racism directed towards President Obama and his wife, and I don’t have time here to list the incidents proving those racist attacks. Racism is real. We also know that “Stand Your Ground” and “Castle Doctrine” legislation is a very real danger to all citizens, and probably more so to African American youth. But this isn’t really about blame. I won’t write about Jeb Bush signing the “Stand Your Ground” legislation in Florida that doomed Trayvon Martin. I won’t point out that Jeb Bush just endorsed Mitt Romney. I won’t discuss Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who is continuing to defend his support of the “Stand Your Ground” law. Nor will I note that Jeb Bush is pushing Marco Rubio as a Vice Presidential pick for Mitt Romney. And I won’t point out that Mitt Romney has yet to make his feelings known concerning what is easily one of the most important issues concerning race and crime in our country today. I’ll let others shame these men. I’m more concerned with my son.
I’ll note that there are voices out there discussing, once again, the dangers young black men face routinely, just because they are black. Eugene Robinson, for instance. Jonathan Capehart of the Washington Post and MSNBC has been particularly vocal, both on MSNBC and in his column, here and here. I particularly liked his “rules” for survival as a young black man. These are indeed times for mothers and fathers to worry about their African American sons, and they are worrying, picturing their sons lying on the ground with a bag of skittles next to the body, as eloquently delineated here in the Washington Times. As the Miami Herald notes, this is terror to the parents of black children. This whole issue makes me terrified.
But let me be realistic for a change. My African American son does not live in a rough neighborhood. He has two white parents and lives in a very white neighborhood. We’re sending him to private school. Jack will be a privileged boy. But do we still need to teach him, as Jonathan Capehart’s mother taught him, never to run in public, especially while holding anything? Man. What is it like to teach your son never to run free?
There’s why I haven’t brought this topic up on Bloggingblue. This issue is hard to face. Sure, I’ve encountered racism while with Jack. No, not in the city where Jack was born. Philadelphia has its share of racism, but I never encountered racism when I took him for walks when we lived there. But in Wisconsin? There is racism here. I have been stopped on the street and confronted by an African American woman who grilled me about whether my son, sitting in his stroller and calling for Daddy, was my son. I have also been confronted by a security guard in a restroom after Jack followed me there, a situation that wouldn’t have happened if Jack wasn’t so. . . black. Racism is certainly alive here in Wisconsin. There’s no escaping racism anywhere in America.
I don’t know what to do here except to live life and teach Jack . . . what? That he is immediately suspect? That he is in more danger just because of his skin?
My Jack is named after his grandfather, who was a Republican and who never would have harmed a soul. Jack carries the Hebrew name of his other grandfather, who would also not harm a soul, but who bought a gun after Barack Obama was elected President. Yeah, our nation has a long way to go. I want Jack to be proud of both his namesakes, and I want him to grow to be a fine young man, prepared to take his part in society in a productive way. But this is hard work. This is really hard work.