Wednesday, July 17, 2013
If You Only Knew Him
At the risk of being redundant, the Zimmerman/Martin trial shook some things to the surface in me, not because I think I know what the verdict should have been, but because I can't believe we're still here--it's the beginning of the second decade of the 21st century and skin pigment still drives public perception. It's wake is far-reaching and it's undermining what I'm trying to do, here.
You see, I'm an African-American mother trying to raise a 2-year-old, biracial man-to-be and I don't appreciate the roadblock in his way. I wish you knew him. His current favorite thing is to "help" mama and daddy--he throws things away, he unloads dishwashers, drawers and laundry baskets--whether we want him to or not. He gives great cuddles. He delights in taking running starts toward me, lips puckered, then making (often painful) contact with a decisive "mmuah!" to let me know I've been well and truly kissed. While that baby sweetness won't last forever, I will always remember him this way even while I thrill in watching him grow up. As his mama, my primary goals are to encourage him to love God, to work hard, to be kind and to leave a positive impact on the world. That's the most solid influence I have over who he will be and I hope some day to take pride in that measure of his success. What I can't control that will impact his success in life, perhaps unfairly, is the color of his skin.
I'm an African-American sister and aunt who hurts when my loved ones hurt. I wish you knew them. I have a father, two brothers and a nephew who were all raised to say please and thank you, to open doors for others, and to be respectful of people who have different beliefs than they. My heart breaks to imagine anyone distrusting them because their skin is brown. The only legitimate reason I have for distrusting my brothers growing up was my fear of being de-pants-ed in front of company. But regardless of that shortcoming, to judge them by the color of their skin rather than the content of their character cheats them of who they have worked so hard to become. I feel sorry for anyone who misses out on any opportunity to know these quality human beings. They are definitely worth the second look.
We can talk about race relations in America all day, but the question I need answered will remain the same, as I'm sure it will for countless other parents of little boys at the mercy of the color of their skin. Knowing what I know now, how am I supposed to explain the world to my son and help him to find his place in it, when the rules might not be the same for him, even as they are for his blond-haired, green-eyed father? And how much longer do we have to wait for this particular scale to balance out?
I wish I knew.