I have sat with the news for nearly a week and yet I still feel the constant need to dissect the Martin case. There are many in the “can we just get over it and let it go camp” and while I understand the constant media fury is annoying, I wonder if those complaining have ever felt personally touched by the issues? Perhaps now is a good time to turn off the opinions of media and instead do some personal searching. Educate yourself on the factual information, the behavior of jurors and the various people who are leading others to stand up for a changed system of justice. Dig deep and ask yourself how what stereotypes or judgements you might harbor and why. I know I am and encouraging my family to do the same. For me it’s the only way to squelch the pain I feel over the horror of this case. Of course emotions fly and it is easy to pick a side and run with it, but should the legacy of this case become that of choosing a side? Justice and social change will never be learned if we just stop there. There will be nothing learned from the loss of a young life, a boy who was doing nothing wrong at the time he was shot (and yes I know I was not there so please do not email me). For me it is not about what side of the issue we are on but instead it’s the dialogue created that may incite action or change. It’s about learning what’s needed to spare the loss of life in the future. It’s about understanding that being different from one another is OK. It’s about educating ourselves and getting right with the idea that not everyone needs to look or act a certain way to be valued. Afterall we are all valued in God’s eyes and we all come to this earth with gifts and purpose that should be honored. I promise I am not naive or sporting rose colored glasses but what troubles me most in the case is the judgement that reared its ugly head that night in the dark. Initially it seems a neighborhood watchman was doing his job. I guess that makes sense and I am all for proper security and rules that maintain order. But should protection and security be based solely on presumption, stereotypes or suspicion? Who wants to live in a world where you are guilty based on your look In this case it seems crystal clear that suspicion created fear and fear then lead to asserting power and force where power and force were not needed. All week I have replayed what I might have done if followed, frightened or provoked in the dark? Maybe I would have fought and I would advise my children in the same circustances to do the same. Sad thing is black men in this country know the statistics and they have heard the stories and they know they are targets. What could we have expected a scared Martin to do? Walking down any public street should be the right of all people not just the right of those who have a proper look. Believe me I am checking my own heart this week and examining where my mind goes when I see someone different from myself in my daily travels. It is only through the lens of careful self critique that we can begin to make changes and changing, one person at a time, is the only justice for a young black boy headed home that night who was shot to death.
The last few days I have been answering questions from my children. “How can someone shoot another person if they are just walking and they do not have a gun,” my little guy asked. Then there was Tadesse. He grew up until the age of 17 in Ethiopia in very challenging conditions and even after being here in the USA for a year he still has no idea how to process the news of last weekend’s verdict. He had little to say until a couple of days ago and then out of the blue he muttered, “I am scared.” With a lump in my throat I looked at him, quite sure I knew what he was referring to. I could see the tension on his face as he went on to share his fear of having to return to Africa if things become more and more difficult between the various races of our country. “Would you send me back to protect me?” My heart sank and I had no words. Tadesse is Ethiopian but this week in this country it feels more like he is just a black boy who might not know he is in the wrong place at the wrong time. He loves to walk to our nearby grocery store and sometimes pulls up the hood of his sweatshirt to shield his face from sun and wind. Of course all we can think of is how out of place he may appear to some who do not know him or how he made his way to our family living in an American suburb. He is an eighteen year old child of color who has been brought into a culture where sadly to some the color of his skin matters. There are few words to help him to understand and the pain runs deep.
So this week my responsibility as a mother of three biological and two African children became a bit more challenging.
I must teach them all tolerance and equality. I must teach them history and social responsibility. I must teach them awareness of their surroundings in a way I never hoped to have to explain. All the while my hope and prayer is that God is using our family as an example of love that extends far beyond the color of skin, the age of a child , beyond adopted of biological or the behavioral challenges each child might bring to our life. My hope is that our transracial family will be a beacon of hope to many who need to admit to their deep distrust of other races. I’m overwhelmed yet hopeful that the more we educate ourselves and carefully open the eyes of our children to racial inequalities, the harder we will fight against ridiculous stereotypes. Not all Muslims are dangerous. Not all living in impoverished neighborhoods are lazy. Not all who wear certain clothes to fit in are uneducated or criminals. The girl with tattoos, multiple earrings and dark black eye makeup what do we think of her? Our journey is a slippery slope when we judge before knowing anything about who and what a person is, instead we should look at each person as an individual in need of love, attention, an opportunity and more than anything else grace. Can you imagine how freeing it would be to live with fewer suspicions and a greater love for that which makes us all unique? Fight with me. Dissect the issues with careful words, do your digging and check your heart next time that fear grips you.
Peace and Grace,