Monday, July 22, 2013

TRAYVON MARTIN WAS MY GRANDSON...

...in fact, if you are a parent or grandparent in America, Trayvon was your son or grandson, too.  I have three grandsons. One just turned 18, the other two are almost 15. I have seen all of them wearing a hoody, walking down the street, carrying snacks and a drink. Tray (that's what I would have called him  - I have nicknames for all my grandsons) seemed just like my other grandsons, at least from the stories and photos of him that I've read and seen. A sweet kid, good with little kids, a quick and warm smile, likes to horse around with Opa (that's what my grandsons call me), and tall because, well, teenagers now seem to get taller than we used to.

I can't imagine knowing that someone with a gun was following my grandson because he "looked suspicious." Why would my grandson look suspicious? Because of his hoody? Because he was a tall, skinny teenager? Because he was carrying a box of Skittles? Why? WHY?

Trayvon was African American; I'm Eastern-European American. Trayvon was Black; my grandsons are White. And that is why. There is no other explanation.

Unfortunately, racism, specifically racial fear and distrust, is very much alive and well in America. The outrage in the Black community is always just below the surface, and runs deep. For good reasons.

I, too, am outraged, but my outrage is not based on direct and overt racism that I encounter every day. My outrage is based on what goes on within our society, the overt and covert, individual and institutionalized racism that grinds people down if their skin just isn't light enough. Grinds them down and often, way too often, kills them.

Many teenagers, a disproportionate number of them Black, are killed by gun every week in America. In that sense, the death of Trayvon Martin is just another disturbing statistic. But Trayvon's killing was so much more important because the law allowed it, both before and after the fatal shot was fired. George Zimmerman was allowed by the law to carry a gun. And the verdict in Mr. Zimmerman's trial tells us that Mr. Zimmerman was allowed by the law to kill another person. Both of these "allows" must be questioned equally. Neither of these "allows" should have been.

I am sad when I think of Trayvon; even more so when I picture my grandsons. I miss Tray. I miss the opportunity to know him, to read about him someday because he did something awesome, and just to know that he and every other Trayvon is alive and well and being a teenager. I will not let the Florida legal system or the media ruin the image of the Trayvon I know by somehow suggesting that it was his fault, that he was the aggressor, that he somehow was the criminal against whom George Zimmerman had to defend himself. No. Not for a second!

I am sad about Trayvon's family and friends. How do you carry on after someone you love is murdered? How do you carry on after the murderer is set free by the legal system? How do you not let the outrage that is always just beneath the surface boil over?

Let us not forget Trayvon Martin. Let all parents and grandparents keep his name and his image close in our hearts, just like our own kids and grandkids - because he was one of them, one of ours. We should all be outraged that the law allowed our child to be murdered. Trayvon is alive in our hearts; let's make certain that Trayvon is alive in the fight to end racism in every ugly form, including the law. Trayvon Martin's boyish smile is the sign we hold high for all to see, for all to grieve, and for all to fight for.

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