I have waited several days to respond to the Trayvon Martin trial. I have wanted to choose my words carefully. Yesterday as my son moved around the house in his black hoodie, I was hit by a wave of emotions that got stronger as I imagined my son being targeted. Trayvon could have been my child. I began to think about the fact that I am raising a Little Black Boy in the South. My reality though is different and compounded by the fact that my son suffers from Autism and the world is full of cruel people who will not recognize that cognitively he is not like other little boys and that he has to be taught social skills and social etiquette on a daily basis. I worry about his safety every day. I can not teach him many of the lessons that father’s around the country are teaching their sons at this moment about the dangers out in the world just because of the color of his skin. (Side note, I’m not saying that the Trayvon Martin trial was all about race, but it played a factor.) He does not understand many concepts that are not black and white. My son is a friendly child that believes that everyone will be his friend. He has no sense of danger and I am terrified to let him out of my sight, especially now.
We have been revisiting one of the dark parts of his development in our home. My son was a runner at the age of two. For those of you that do not understand, fight or flight is heightened for him. He will run for no reason in any direction and he is a big boy for his age. Most recently he ran up our street in his underwear and socks. I thank God for the neighbor’s that I have, because they were worried about him. Not because he was a black kid running around in his boxer briefs, but worried about his safety. I fear that an over zealous police officer, let alone a neighborhood watch person, that does not know my family will one day approach him when he is running and he will not know how to react as the black kid, let alone as a citizen. My son wants to hug everyone and chat with them, often in their personal space. I feel sad that as American citizens, I have to figure out how to teach my child these lessons and add race to the mix because he was raised to see beyond the color on a person’s skin but to see them for they are. We should not be teaching our children to be wary of how people will react to the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, or just simply because they do not like something about them. No matter how you shape it, as a black woman with children, I have to teach my children a different set of rules that parents of other races might not have to teach their children. The difference in my household is that two of my children do not understand the lessons the way other children understand them because receptively, they will not understand the concept let alone the dangers.
I cannot shake the unnerving feelings that I get when I hear a news report about the disparities of race. I can not shake the feeling in the pit of my stomach when I think about a 17-year-old boy being shot and what must have gone through his mind in that moment. I cannot shake the stress and anxiety that I feel when I look at my nine-year old son and try to figure out what to tell him about the Trayvon Martin’s of the world. I cannot shake the anxiety as I explain to my girls to be wary of men and boys that will harm them and walk away just because they are girls. I fear for my children more and more every day and I fear for them even more because their disabilities make them easy prey in many situations. How can a mother like myself feel at ease when there is so much hatred out in the world and so many people who feel as though it is okay to hurt others and just walk away. I fear for myself as a woman and I am a strong woman.
I can only say that time heals all wounds. Time will heal the wound that has been opened since the day that Trayvon Martin left this earth. It will not heal the loss that his parents feel, but America will heal and in the days, weeks, months, and years, we will look at the dynamics of the situation without anger or malice in our hearts, but with hope and optimism that we hope this will not happen to another child ever again. Moms like myself will not fear for our children any less, but we will have a better understanding of how to teach, reach, and educate our young children. Today, I walk around with a sense of anxiety because I fear what may happen to my children without me. It is more than being harmed in their community, it is dropping them off at school and finding out that they were victims of a gunman. It is taking them to a movie and fearing a gunman storming in and firing on us. I fear being on the highway with them and being hit by a drunk driver going the wrong way on the highway with no regard for life. Times have changed from when I was a kid when the worse thing that we feared was a bee sting. My anxiety is real, it is not going away, I live with it, but I also teach my children the lessons that they can understand to keep them safe.
As we move forward, we know that there are George Zimmerman’s in the world. We now must know how to recognize them. We now know that there are Adam Lanza’s in the world and we need to recognize them as well. We live in a time when we must now be more aware of where we are at all times and who may be around us. I cannot shake the emotions that I have or the anxiety, but I can look for a way to move forward, to look at life in a positive manner, and to continue to raise my children to be productive members of society.