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Trayvon Martin Murder Trial: Mothers of Black Sons Speak On Implications

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.

Black Girl in Maine, the mother of an adult son, wrote this on her facebook page

Having raised a son in this country as a Black woman, I have been watching the Zimmerman trial very closely. To say my heart breaks at this verdict is an understatement. Moments like this, I try to believe that universal justice and truth will prevail at some point but in this second, I am just a very angry mother.

Amanda, who blogs at Mommies are Light, and has two multiracial children, wrote:

I really don't want to live in a country where you can kill an unarmed young man because he is black. I don't want to have to teach Noah that no matter how smart, kind or loving he is at any given time his life can be taken because he is black. Peace to Trayvon. Peace to his family. Extra love to all the black boys who have to work harder, be smarter and still don't get the respect, freedom and justice they deserve. You deserve better than that.

Kelly who blogs at Mocha Momma is both a mother and a teacher. She wrote today on twitter about the challenge of talking to her students about the verdict.

What to tell all my black students, especially the boys, when we return to school in the fall? I tell them they are still not valued and that loud jury verdicts make sure that's the truth.I tell them they have to be perfect. No mistakes, ever. Not a toe out of line.I tell them to surrender, always ALWAYS, when questioned and berated. I tell them to just give up.I tell them to stop being so damn black all the time, because the world simply cannot handle that.Jesus, how to move forward from this and explain that, yes, I love them and they matter.If adults are struggling to understand this what must children, who believe in justice, be wondering right now?

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:

Nothing anyone else does will ever turn ME into a tool of oppression against my son.Telling him to shut up, walk with eyes down, be humble, be obedient, work hard for those who hate you makes ME a tool of oppression.

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.

On Native Born, Faiqa said someone asked today "what can I do?". Her answer, part of a longer must-read blog post:

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

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Reader Comments (2)

My heart breaks for Trayvon's family. For the mothers of black sons. For all of us.

I considered taking my 4yo to a rally today. I'm not, because of other reasons, but also because I'm not sure how to have this conversation with her. So, for right now, I'm listening and watching and trying to figure out how we can be a part of the change and how we can raise her to see race and be seen herself. I just don't know what that will look like yet.

July 14, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCasey

This entire situation has made me so sad. I know that I shouldn't be surprised by the verdict because of so many reasons - past history of race relations being the top - but I am so terribly sad. All I can do is try to teach my kids how unacceptable this is and know others are doing the same.

July 14, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBrenna

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