Nothing to Kill or Die For

Stop-Racism“In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies…but the silence of our friends.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

I’ve told myself many times over the past nine years that I wasn’t going to write about this issue again. I knew I needed to move past it, not to dwell on it. It was consuming me. I thought I had moved past it, that I was content with my place in the world, and how people saw me, and especially how they saw my son.

Then Trayvon Martin was killed. I don’t know all the facts of this case and I’m not a member of the jury. So I do not really want to argue the facts of the case or whether or not George Zimmerman should be in jail. We all have our opinions about these issues, and nothing anyone else says will change them.

However, a boy was killed. And the man who killed him was a known racist. He made racial comments in the past and he made it very clear that he had contempt for black teenagers. My heart aches for his mother, for his family, and for his friends. As a mother, I cannot even imagine the pain she feels.

I have a son. He just turned 20. I’ve written about him many times, from age 8 until now. I’ve written about our struggles with racism, and as a biracial child, how he was treated in a small town in southeast Texas. Growing up, I never experienced racism. I witnessed it occasionally, but it never affected me. That changed when I had a child with a black man. Until recently, I thought I was handling it well. My son handles it much better than I do. He has been called names and been unable to date someone he liked because of the racism of her parents. I thought if I ignored it, that it would not impact our lives. I was wrong. Ignoring it only seems to give people permission. 

My son Kyle is now in college. This boy who everyone said would be a failure, would grow up to be a criminal, would have problems as a half-black child raised by a white single mother, is doing well. That doesn’t seem to matter, though. The only thing that matters to some people is that he is darker than them.

Today, Kyle said he was going bike riding, and after about an hour, came through the door looking concerned and upset. He told me that he had been riding and a pickup truck was behind him and would not go around. He finally motioned for them to go around him, and they laughed and taunted him. He could not hear what they were saying. He stopped his bike, and again motioned for them to go around him. They drove up next to him, slowed down, and yelled out “Trayvon Martin!” My son told them to keep moving and to stop bothering him. They asked him what he was going to do about it, and he got on his bike to ride away. As he turned around, he saw a police car cross a side street, and he waved to the police officer. The officer quickly blasted his siren and the truck sped away. The policeman then asked my son where he was going, and said he would make sure the truck didn’t follow him home.

I was so angry when I heard this story. Why should I have to have to discussion with my son about not talking to anyone who is harassing him, to avoid being brought into a fight and getting shot?

I feel guilty, because so many times I saw the behavior of people, and I sat back and just hoped it would go away, or that my son wouldn’t notice. I didn’t want to believe that people could be so cruel. I have always seen the glances, the curiosity on people’s faces, and the judgment. It hurt me. It still hurts me. I remember someone once asked me, “What is he?” referring to my son.  I responded, “He’s a boy, you can’t tell?” They weren’t really sure how to respond, or whether they should press their question. I knew what they really wanted to know, but I would not give them the satisfaction of a response. 

The people who claim that racism doesn’t exist just haven’t experienced racism. Or they refuse to see it when it does happen. I’ve even had friends tell me to drop the references to having a biracial child, telling me to stop making it an issue. Well, it is an issue.  When Kyle is treated differently, and I am judged for my relationships, it is an issue.

All of these discussions lately about racism have brought all these feelings back for me. They never really went away. I know that I just buried them, or ignored them. However, reading the disgusting things that people are saying, or watching a protest online and seeing the nasty comments made by people, insults me personally. Any time a racist comment is made, it insults me personally. Because you are insulting my son, a great person you will never know. Yet you hate him. Why? I have no idea.  The thought makes me sad. After having my son, I felt alone in the world. I still do. I see the superficial people around me, being nice to my face and insulting me or my son when they think we can’t hear. We hear you. And while I try to tell myself it’s their problem, it’s not me, I still feel the pain. I still feel the insults. What is so wrong with me that you can’t accept my choices? What is wrong with my son that you can’t love him for who he is?

If this post is rambling or scattered, it’s because the only way I could deal with this tonight was to write about it. And not edit it. I had to speak from my heart, from my soul, with no censor. 

I cannot say that I am Trayvon Martin, but Kyle is Trayvon Martin.  And just like Trayvon, he deserves better.  He deserves peace. 

“We’ve got to face the fact that some people say you fight fire best with fire, but we say you put fire out best with water. We say you don’t fight racism with racism. We’re gonna fight racism with solidarity.”  –Fred Hampton

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