Much of the world was shocked yesterday to learn that George Zimmerman was acquitted in the murder of Trayvon Martin. Others were not shocked, which shows the incredible depth of the problem (a combination of systemic racism, bad laws, and gun culture). The roots and implications of the verdict are many, including the fact that "The most damning element here is not that George Zimmerman was found not guilty: it’s the bitter knowledge that Trayvon Martin was found guilty." (from Jelani Cobb on the New Yorker)
Today, I want to use this space to share a few of the moving and heartbreaking words I read from mothers of black sons today.
Amanda, who blogs at Mommies are Light, and has two multiracial children, wrote:
Finally, Ani wrote on twitter that she won't give her son the same type of advice many other mothers give their black sons. She explains why:
The way that the verdict will translate into the parenting of these mothers and teachers may be varied, but it will certainly influence the advice they give their children and the fears that they have for them as they go out into the world.
I am keenly aware, as all mothers of white children should be, of the immense privilege that my family has that we don't have to worry about our children being unfairly targeted based on nothing more than the colour of their skin. But that doesn't mean that we don't have to tell our children anything, that we don't have to do anything. As mothers of white children, our responsibility is great -- we need to actively raise our children to not be part of the problem. This doesn't mean "not seeing colour", it means talking to them about the issues. As Magda (a mother of white children) from AskMoxie wrote today:
Reeling and so sad from the combination of the Zimmerman verdict and the Marissa Alexander verdict and sentence. Thinking a lot about race and privilege in the US and how privilege and racism are built into our system. My duty as a white parent of white kids is to expose the ugly guts of the system to them so they can see it and choose not to be complicit.
Hold yourself accountable for the tiny ways in which you might be making this problem bigger. You’re not a racist, of course. I’m not either. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t unconsciously harbor sentiments which are so deeply ingrained with racist ideology that it is no longer visible to us. I think, too, and this is going to be controversial… we have to let go of relativism when it comes to tolerance and acceptance. Be unrelenting. Be ever vigilant. But, of course, be kind.
Look at what you believe — observe yourself, your words and your ideas in the context of humankind’s very necessary journey to a peaceful existence. Our continued existence is fully determined by our ability to take a stand in the service of our preservation.
One remarkable acquittal is enough.
Let’s not acquit ourselves, too.
"Taking a stand in the service of our preservation" is making a committment to change. It reminds me of a panel in a remaining section of the Berlin wall that I like so much: "Wer will dass die Welt so bleibt, der will nicht dass sie bleibt" (loosely translated: "He/she who wants the world to remain as it is, doesn't want the world to remain at all.")
Photo credit: Michael Fleishmann on flickr