FYI - Tomorrow, a rally and march for Trayvon Martin sponsored by the NAACP, Mothers for Police Accountability, American Friends Service Committee, and other activist groups.
Rally at 4pm Sunday the 25th
Greater Mt.Baker Baptist Church,
2425 South Jackson Street
March at 4:30pm to
MLK Memorial Park,
2200 Martin Luther King Jr Way
Trayvon Martin was 17. He had friends, was bright (but got in trouble for tardiness) and had a close-knit family even though his parents had divorced. He had played football but quit. He continued volunteering at the team's concession stand for months anyway. Three weeks ago he was visiting his father's fiancee's home and went out to get some treats at a nearby convenience store. He was shot to death coming back home by a neighborhood watch guy.
So why bring this up here? Because I've talked in the past about the need for teens to learn how to deal with police officers. Things happen.
I suspect that Trayvon's parents had what many African-American parents who have teen sons call The Talk. Many of us who have teen sons have our own talk.
One day your son is a little boy. Then, rather quickly, they grow, sprout hair on their faces and get deeper voices. But that process does not make them men even though many of them look much older than their years. But to a stranger on the street, they all look like big scary teenagers who are looking for trouble.
It's not true, of course. But really, if you saw 3-4 teen girls walking together or 3-4 boys walking together, which do you think would make the average person nervous?
The Talk. I talked to my sons about being respectful to police officers, answering questions about who you are and where you are going but asking for a lawyer if they made you go to a police station. And you never, ever, run from a cop.
From friends and listening to NPR this week, I know parents of African-American teen boys have a much more difficult job. Their sons are regarded with much more suspicion. Don't loiter, don't go anywhere alone, don't reach into your pocket when speaking with an adult you don't know.
One mother on NPR said she told her son, who is on his high school track team, not to go running anywhere but at the track. A black teen who is running can't be just...a kid out running.
And to kick it up a notch, we now have Gerald Rivera saying this:
“The hoodie is as much responsible for Trayvon Martin’s death as George Zimmerman was.”
He later said, ”Trayvon Martin, God bless him, an innocent kid, a wonderful kid, a box of Skittles in his hand didn’t deserve to die, but I’ll bet you money if he didn’t have that hoodie on that nutty neighborhood watch guy wouldn’t have responded in that violent an aggressive way.”
Rivera concluded, “there is no rehabilitating the hoodie…unless it’s raining out or you’re at a track meet, leave the hoodie home.” It is worth noting that it had been raining the night Trayvon died.
Now I personally don't like hoodies pulled up in schools. I think teachers and staff need to see students' faces. But who blames an article of clothing for someone's death?
I grew up in the '60s and '70s. Remember those days when any guy with long hair was instantly a hippie and regarded with suspicion (probably was using pot).
Teens like having a look and the currently popular look is...the hoodie. It's warm, it keeps rain off and, of course, you can hide away. Teens like to hide their faces sometimes.
But if only Mr. Zimmerman, as the adult, had said, "Hi, I'm with the neighborhood watch group. Where are you going tonight, young man?"
And Trayvon would have said, "Back to my father's house at XXX X Street to watch a basketball game."
That would have been it but instead Zimmerman approached him suspiciously and aggressively.
Where does that leave us? We are once again a country roiled over race. Would Zimmerman have reacted the same why if Trayvon had been a white teenager with a hoodie pulled up?
But, if you have a son, after you have the sex talk, the drug and alcohol talk, have the "teenaged boys can look scary to some people" talk.