Trayvon, Belatedly

This is a late bit of writing. There is value in better late than never.  There is value in having it be said.  There is value in discussion.

I am a white woman, married to a white man, with only daughters.  I will never have to have “the talk” with my girls.  I am, in many respects, perhaps the last person who should be writing about the death of a black teenager at the hands of a vigilante.  Then again, perhaps I am one of many right people to talk about it.

Immediately after the details of the shooting came out, there was a movement of “I am Trayvon”.  Hoodies on Twitter avatars, from famous people to the ordinary every kind, worn in solidarity.  I am not Trayvon, but “he” is still a big part of my life, regardless of how it may look on the outside.  Looks, after all, can be deceiving.

Trayvon is my cousin’s son.  Adopted from Africa (the details of the how and why’s are not up for discussion here), who is incredibly loved by his parents.  Destined to be the only son.  The “talk” will have to happen in that house, perhaps even more so because they live in semi rural Wisconsin (don’t even get me started about Wisconsin lately).

Trayvon is the family friend who’s son and daughter, when they were teens, were approached on a street in Minneapolis by a cop who questioned if she was prostitute and he was her pimp.  She was an honor’s student at an elite Minneapolis private school, he was her younger brother.  Their mother is now a high ranking government official, their father is an award winning writer.  They didn’t tell their parents until they were much older.  She is now a librarian, he is a photographer and a father.  For him, I am guessing the talk has already happened with his sons.

Trayvon is my daughters’ future friends.  It is maybe a boyfriend when they are teens.  Maybe it is just the kid standing next to them on the street that is harassed when they are not.

Trayvon in the next door neighbor’s son, the one who still says “Hi, neighbor.” like he did when he was a toddler when we moved in.

You can live in a tiny town, where everyone knows each other, and there haven’t been newcomers in years, and Trayvon can still be a part of your life.  You never know what the future will hold.  You don’t know when a child will enter a family through adoption, or marriage, or simply friendship.  You don’t know when a family will move in next door, a mother bringing her kids somewhere to escape violence, to provide them with a better life.

What happened to Trayvon Martin made me angry, as it should.  As a mother, an aunt, a cousin, a friend. It made me mad as someone who has been (mis)judged for the way I look. You know you have been too, so did it make you mad?

We don’t write about it, we don’t talk about it, because we are afraid of getting it wrong.  If I have learned anything in the past few years, it is that not speaking up is the same as agreeing with the hate.  It isn’t easy.  It isn’t fun.  It isn’t always full of the warm and squishy stuff.  I’ve done the quiet version of what I can do to make it different.  It is time for me to stop being quiet.

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2 Comments

  1. Posted August 21, 2012 at 8:17 am | Permalink

    Thank you for this. It does need to be said, and you’ve said it well. Trayvon is all of these people. He deserves respect just as much as anyone else and it still pains me to think that he didn’t receive it, and that he paid for wanting (expecting?) it. It goes without saying that this is meaningful coming from a white woman (not more meaningful than someone of color, but meaningful in a different way, a usually unspoken way). Earlier this month I read a post I’d written about Trayvon for BlogHer’s Voices of the Year. I didn’t have many women of color talk to me afterward. They didn’t have to; it’s understood. We get it. The more white women who talked to me, though, even those who are still on the fence about Zimmerman’s vigilantism, admitted to being glad to have a different perspective to think about. Again, thank you.
    Arnebya recently posted..Yesterday I Wasn’t Nice

    • a. sprout
      Posted August 21, 2012 at 8:48 am | Permalink

      Thank you! Feedback is good to hear, especially when you’re writing something that isn’t often said. Its thought about a lot, but not said as much as it should be. Now to go find your VoTY post. :) I haven’t read them all yet, waiting for when I need inspiration.

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