By now we imagine you are well aware that Black teenager Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by white Hispanic neighborhood crime watch volunteer George Zimmerman while Martin walked unarmed and alone in a residential neighborhood in Sanford, Florida, and that the Sanford police department has refused to arrest Zimmerman, accepting his claims that he was acting in self-defense under Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law.
You are probably following on the Martin case, but are your sons? Tell your sons about the Trayvon Martin story as it is unfolding.
Tell your sons that even though the Sanford police department accepted Zimmerman’s claims of self-defense under a Florida law, the state legislator who was the prime sponsor of this legislation in the Florida House has written a statement found here in which he clarifies that this law does not seem to be applicable to the tragedy that happened in Sanford.
Tell them that even though the Sanford police won’t press charges, the Seminole County State Attorney is convening a grand jury investigation and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division has opened an inquiry into the shooting. Tell them these state and federal investigations were opened because people nationwide are horrified and outraged by this tragedy, and their calls for action have been heard.
Tell your sons that Zimmerman called 911 and reported that a “real suspicious guy” was walking around the neighborhood. Tell them that the image of a young Black man as a threat pervades our society, and is promoted in the media, in movies, on television, in videos, and in music. Tell them when young Black men are regularly and primarily depicted in the media as criminals it helps people like George Zimmerman feel justified in believing that a Black boy walking down the street is looking for trouble and deserves to be shot in cold blood.
Tell them the New York Times chose to run an unsmiling picture of Trayvon in a hoodie with the hood up next to a picture of George Zimmerman on the first page of an early article about this killing instead of the picture of Trayvon smiling which they ran on the second page of the article. (The online version of this article has been edited to only show the smiling Trayvon picture.)
Tell your sons to read Charles Blow’s op-ed piece “The Curious Case of Trayvon Martin” found here in which Blow talks about “the burden of black boys in America and the people that love them: running the risk of being descended upon in the dark and caught in the cross-hairs of someone who crosses the line”.
Tell your sons that this story is every Black parent’s vivid nightmare.
Tell your sons not to be surprised if you hug them a little tighter when you send them out into the world these days, or if you stay in a bit closer touch by phone or text.
Tell them to keep Trayvon Martin and his family in their thoughts and prayers.
Tell your sons to keep their heads high, but to always watch their backs.