Trayvon Martin

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.  


Anonymous said…
Thank you for writing this and spreading the word about tomorrow's events. This morning my husband (who is African-American) and I had an emotional talk that involved an admittance that we are relieved to have daughters and no sons for this very reason. They too have been given The Talk, although it is of a different nature.

Seattle mom
Anonymous said…
Hoodies are ubiquitous clothing in the PNW. Even my 7 year old wears a hoodie. Look around, they are everywhere. What a stupid comment by Rivera.

Anonymous said…
I appreciate the post on this. I hope many of you will come out tomorrow to speak out against this continuing atrocity. How can we be silent when something like this occurs?

If this was a white teen in a hoodie then no I absolutely don't think he would have been shot.

this is way more about racism than ageism. hard to tease that apart with young black males though because the biases, the hatred, when young and black is combined is exponential in my opinion.

this is about racism. and not just by Zimmerman. by the whole damn system. it's not about clothing.

unjust, heartbreaking, and infuriating beyond words.

rest in peace, Trayvon.

Anonymous said…
This is about racism--particularly against black and latino males.

This is not about white parents with teenagers. They have what is called the talk--staying respectful to avoid trouble.

Black and Latino parents have to have "The Talk"--how to help your child stay alive.

Let's not feel the pain to the point where the racism that is the central issue of this case becomes a side issue.

Look at the statistics. Stay real.

--enough already
Charlie Mas said…
Rocky Balboa wore a hoodie. I have a hoodie and wear it sometimes. It's not the hoodie.

And it's not just black and latino boys. This "talk" was part of driver's education when I grew up in the late seventies in L.A. There was a part of the class which was essentially "How to survive a police stop".

Yes, this was L.A. where the police were notoriously violent ("Bang! Bang! - Police!") but the rules apply everywhere.
Anonymous said…

Overaggressive police have always been an issue--there are certainly cases to back this up. I have personally experienced such
individuals in uniform.

The main issue in this case is the targeting of black and latino boys by law enforcement and pretend law enforcement. Google Cornel West for more information.

Focusing on a generalized problem minimizes the injustice directed at this targeted group. Until we effectively identify and admit the problem--black and latino males are targets--we won't begin to have a solution.

--enough already
dj said…
The thing that infuriates me about the hoodie meme is that even if it weren't so offensive, "don't wear a hoodie so you don't scare the white people" has nothing to do with what happened to Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman has been nice enough to leave a 911 transcript paper trail of what kinds of black people he thought looked suspicious. They were wearing tank tops. They had short hair, which suggests a certain lack of hoodie. What they had in common was not the oh-so-menacing hoodiewear common to hipsters, elementary school students, and soccer moms alike, but the fact that they were black and male.
Anonymous said…
And let's remember that this was NOT a police stop. This was a police-wannabe self-appointed neighborhood watch guy who decided to ignore REAL law-enforcement advice to stay in his car and not follow Trayvon. There was nothing Trayvon SHOULD have had to do regarding a nosy, stereotyping neighborhood guy. He had the right to walk to the store without suspicion.

I have a (white) son the same exact age as his black cousin. As teens they hung out together and more than a few times his cousin would be subjected to suspicion while he was not, even though they were together, doing the same thing. It's absolutely about race.

"Trayvon=Emmett Till" is a poster I saw yesterday. I'd have to agree.

Anonymous said…
Melissa said: "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?"

Just want to point out that Zimmerman had no authority as a neighborhood watch guy. He could ask Trayvon this question and it would be up to Trayvon if he wanted to answer.

One acceptable answer would have been "None of your business!!"

and would Zimmerman ask a white teen where he was going or just assume he belonged. we all know the answer to that.

Anonymous said…
Rivera is an idiot. This is racism.

My son was wearing a hoodie 10 years ago. It's ubiquitous clothing for most young people no matter their skin color. Teens are teens until the police profile them.

10 year ago my son was walking home with friends when they pulled over by SPD in Wallingford. All of them were slammed against the patrol car and given a warning. I had the talk with the other parents and our boys. One conclusion. It helped that my teen looks Irish. He probably saved his friends who are Filipino from harsher treatment. From that day all of us feared for our boys. Mine was just roughed up. For his friends it could've been worse. If we were living in Lake City or the Valley, worse can be jail or being shot in the back.

Mr White
If we as a society are ever going to heal from racial tensions, we need to look racism straight in the eye and have an honest dialog about it.

Here in the PNW, we have the illusion of inclusion. We don't really talk about race, we talk around it. We like to believe that every child of color has the same opportunity as every white child. We like to believe racism rears its ugly head every once in a while.

On this blog I've seen many posts that actually try to deny there's racism in the classroom.

Wake up please!

I personally deal with racism daily. I am around people every day who swear they are not racist until that one thing happens that reveals either their ignorance or their bigotry.

I worry that my 2 beautiful black boys will not outlive me. I know that when they become teens, they will be seen in a completely different light. It won't matter how educated they are, what family they come from, how neatly dressed they are or how polite they are. They will be a N***** to somebody out there who will be all to happy to remind them of that.

The sooner we all recognize this, the faster we can start truly healing and ridding our country of hateful people.

Check out this great article from Diversity Inc. Magazine. There's also a link within the article that's has more details.
Anonymous said…
Cenk at TYT Network breaks it down for you – stand your ground laws and racisim and Koch Brothers/ALEC – March 24, 2012

24 states with stand your ground laws

Anonymous said…
Thanks Trish,

It's nearly impossible to deny racism when we see a case like Trayvon Martin. But you find many more subtle points of racism everywhere, starting with racially segregated advanced learning programs, complete with racially based testing and expensive pay for admissions testing. Juxaposed to that - we have highly disproportionate special education programs and the often advocated for - "intervention" programs targeting minority students with inferior education. If we are to look racism straight in the eye - that all needs to be looked at more deeply than it currently is.

Anonymous said…
Reader, show me where the racially segregaated advanced learning programs are? Please do. Show me intervention programs targeting minority students with inferior education? Please do. Where is it at? Whittier, S. Shore, Lawton, Laurelhurst, Wedgwood, Aki, Mercer, Whitman, Eckstein, W. Seattle????? Or is this another rehash of segregation and elitist argument over AL again. Or is this about segregation of neighborhood schools? I'm mystified at your take away of racism from a boy's death.

-another reader
Anonymous said…
reader, you are trying to too hard.

That's a stretch and frankly exploitative of a tragedy.
Please make your argument against advanced learning elsewhere.

Anonymous said…
Lowell@Lincoln has not one black student. Not one. Is that "exploitative"? It's just a fact. Students labeled as "MR" are overwhelmingly black. Also, not exploitative, just a fact. So, as long as we hold beliefs like this - what do we expect the end result to be?

Anonymous said…
reader, do you know how many black kids are in the Thurgood Marshall APP? I don't think there have ever been more than a handful at any site.

I've long wondered if it's a combination of factors-not enough recruiting, parents who don't want their kids to be tokens, parents who want their kids closer to home, AL black kids going private, and other factors. I think institutional racism does play a part though. How can it not? look at all the comments on just this one blog about the "struggling" kids when South parents have pointed out more than a few times that not ALL of them fit that label.


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