What I Want To Say About Trayvon

I often remain silent when there are big issues going on in the world because I don’t feel that they are always a good fit for my blog, or they’re not my story to tell, or I just don’t want to deal with the fallout and prefer to keep things light. But I can’t be silent about this one.

I admit that I haven’t paid much attention to the Trayvon case. I heard about the incident at the time, and I read posts conveying outrage and hurt among some of my friends and colleagues who are mothers of black sons. My heart broke for them, but as time went on, I admit I didn’t give the situation a lot of thought. I realize that is quite telling of my concern (or lack thereof) about the race issue in our country. That alone is shameful, but there’s more on my mind tonight.

It wasn’t until I was at a neighborhood party on Saturday night and someone brought up the verdict that I realized the case was going to trial this week.

As the verdict came down, Facebook exploded with updates, and I got sucked in as it is so easy to do.

What shocked and confused me, though, was how the comments were so divided — not only divided down racial lines, but also divided along conservative/liberal lines.

Over the past few days, I have read a lot of blog posts and Facebook status updates that range from outrage about the verdict, to feelings of hurt and betrayal, to defense of our justice system and George Zimmerman, to criticisms of those who would dare protest or suggest that it might not be fair.

I still don’t have a strong opinion about whether or not I think the verdict is right. I admit that I haven’t spent the time to educate myself on the details from an objective source (as if such a thing exists) because that isn’t what is so bothersome about this turn of events.

What is disturbing me is that there are loving mothers in my neighborhood, in my church, in my kids’ school and in my professional circles who send their children out every day and they fear for them. They know that because of the color of their skin, they may not be treated fairly. They fear that if their sons happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time wearing the wrong clothes, they may come to harm even if they are doing nothing wrong.

These moms teach their kids that because of the color of their skin, they have to be better, do better, always proving that they are worthy of the privileges the rest of us take for granted — simply because of the color of their skin. (I had a friend tell me once this is what her mother taught her.)

I have never had these concerns for my kids because my children are white.

Whether or not Trayvon Martin incited the situation, I have no idea. Whether George Zimmerman was looking for trouble or over-reacting, I have no idea. Whether or not the prosecution did their job well, whether or not the jurors were biased, and whatever other issues of controversy are surrounding this situation — I am not debating any of that.

Maybe I should be, but I’m not interested in those issues tonight.

Tonight I am heartbroken for the moms around our country who are feeling hurt, confused, angry and betrayed by our justice system — and worse, betrayed by their friends who do not try to understand.

Again, it’s not about which side of the Trayvon case we are on. Everyone is entitled to her opinion.

It’s about the lack of compassion for those who are hurting, the lack of effort to understand the other side, the lack of any attempt to commiserate, to ask why, to reach across racial and party lines to try to understand.

I may not always do or say the right thing, I may be silent when I should speak up, I may express sympathy when I should ask questions, and I may jump to conclusions based on the unexpected feelings of prejudice that lurk beneath my friendly facade. I am not claiming to be color blind.

But I do want to stand up and say this to my friends who are hurting tonight because of the Trayvon verdict:

I hear you. I care. I want to understand. I validate your feelings, and I’m sorry you are hurting. 

We have come such a long way in this country, but we still have far to go.

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30 Responses

  1. The majority of black children are murdered by other black children, unfortunately, over 90%. This proves to me that the problem lies with the breakdown of the family. All children, regardless of their color, need fathers. Way too many black children have no father. Trayvon’s parents were divorced. The greatest thing mothers can do is love their husbands and do everything they can to have a strong family to raise their children in.

    1. That is exactly the kind of comment that causes racial tensions to continue. The state of Trayvon’s parents’ marriage and the murder rates in the African American community have nothing to do with this conversation.

    2. Lori, your “fact” is actually not true. It’s nowhere near 90% and the lack of a father figure has nothing to do with the murders that do happen. While “black on black” crime is still an issue, mainstream media and those that have never lived in predominately black neighborhoods cannot keep quoting these falsities when one of our brown children are murdered. There are plenty of white children that are products of divorce and fatherless homes. So, if this happened to them it would be OK? Your comment confuses me.

  2. Thank you for entering the conversation, for being honest about where you are with this, for sharing your thoughts, and for caring. I’m glad you did.

  3. Thanks for writing this Jo-Lynne. It was heartfelt and honest. I, like you, don’t have a definiteve opinion on the Trayvon case. However, as a black mom (with married parents) to three half black sons (who happen to also have a father) I feel the pain you wrote about. I think my children have a happy life and are fortunate to not have to face issues of race and discrimination daily, but even my son has been called a hateful name, to his face in our community. We love where we live and our neighbors and are so grateful for everything we have, but the fear remains because the behaviors do. I sincerely hope the first commenter wasn’t saying this happened b/c Trayvon’s parents were divorced because, if so, most of my friends, of all races, should probably be really concerned right now since divorce is prevalent in all American families, regardless of color.

    1. I’ve written before about my mixed-ethnicity children and while my husband is Hispanic/Puerto Rican/?????/ he LOOKS Mediterranean or even Arab or African – people guess all kinds of things. My children are a wide range of skin tones…some as pasty white as I am and others as dark as he is and some in between (I have five. We’re a veritable army of prejudice-busting-future-generations). I have to admit that before marrying Sidney I never thought twice about it. He grew up in a rural community and his mother was of the assimilation generation so he doesn’t even speak Spanish, never mind have an accent.

      But my children?
      Now that they are here I hear the ignorance. And I wonder if my Middle Man (the one with darker skin) is going to have a tougher time of it than his fairer siblings…even with the same parents, same education, same background…what struggles will HE face that his other siblings won’t have to.

      I shouldn’t have to wonder.

  4. Jo-Lynne, thank you so much for writing this and sharing how caring and understanding you are. Although this may not have affected you personally, It’s comforting to know that heartfelt and sincere people like you are here to support those that may be hurting. Thank you for posting your feelings, no matter what they are. I hope other “big” bloggers will follow suit and at least say something. We need all to speak about what they are feeling right now in order to be the catalyst for change.

  5. I couldn’t have said it better myself if I tried. Like you I know there is so much to discuss in the case, but I think most of us aren’t qualified to understand the legal issues surrounding the case. Despite the fact that most people on Facebook suddenly seem to be expert lawyers.

    I often feel I can’t understand what my black friends are feeling during this time, that I can’t really understand what they go through because as much as I try to I don’t walk in their shoes. All I can do is offer my love, my ear to listen, and a shoulder to cry on should they need it. My heart aches for Trayvon’s family. I simply can’t imagine what they are going through right now.

  6. Jo-Lynne..I hear you, thank you for posting this. I can’t imagine what my African American friends fear for their baby boys. The world is scary enough.

  7. This post literally moved me to tears. As a mother of 3 bi-racial children, I understand the racial divide. I have witnessed it first hand. I have seen the struggles that black Americans face and how blind to these issue most white Americans are. This situation saddens me to the core of my being.

  8. It is very well said. I cannot pretend to know what it must have felt like for African Americans to hear that verdict across the country. The only thing I can compare it to – and I know it’s completely different – is my fear for my disabled daughters and their future safety, just by virtue of people who would do them harm because they are who they are. It sickens me that any parent has to face that. I just pray for everyone involved.

  9. Thank you for your post…I love your blog. I have been following this case since the start and was deeply saddened at the tragic loss of this young man. However, I was also greatly concerned by the tactics of the media and high-ranking political figures who, from the beginning, made this a race issue, and tried George Zimmerman in the court of public opinion — editing tapes to make him sound racist, calling him white when he’s half-hispanic (now being called a “self-proclaimed Hispanic”), and other presumptive statements before the facts came out. There was an intentional agenda to turn this into a divisive issue when, instead, we should be united for common good of society. Like the other moms around the country that you mention, I, too am confused — I’m confused as to why a trial by jury was not sufficient justice. The Defendent was tried in a court of law and found not-guilty; this happens every day in our Country. We shouldn’t judge ANYONE by the color of their skin – whether it happens to be light, dark or somewhere in between.

    1. The media has made a circus of this, no doubt about it. I’ve done more reading today, b/c of this post and wanting to be able to respond intelligently. And it’s crazy out there.

    2. Thank you to “Cathy” (July 16, 2013 at 12:01 pm) for your remarks which I think highlight the bigger issue in this court case. May we all be discerning as to whom we let guide us in our thinking and not be pulled along as puppets in someone’s agenda.

  10. Wonderful post, Jo-Lynne. I must admit that, even though I have strong opinions about the case and verdict, I don’t know everything that happened that night. No one does, except Zimmerman, who may be lying, and Martin, who gets no chance to speak.

    When the killing occurred, I had an 18 year old son. He wore his favorite hoodie all the time. He is pale with blond hair, but in the dark night, with the hood up, who can tell his skin color? As he shuffles along the street with friends late at night, would someone look at him in the dark and decide he was up to no good? That he didn’t “belong” in our nice white neighborhood? You see, I’m not absolutely sure that Zimmerman profiled the boy racially, but I do think he profiled him culturally. He was him outside and decided he was “other.” He labeled him as BAD without a word or an act. That’s what makes me angry, and I felt (in a small way) I could understand the fear. To me, it’s so wrong that a boy can’t walk home with some candy without being suspected, labeled, followed, killed. In spite of his white skin, that could have been my boy. Thanks for being gutsy and posting, JL.

    1. I totally agree. And the pictures of him in the news? Are from like 5 years ago. He was a BIG guy. He could have looked threatening in the dark. But my brother? Is a BIG GUY. And white. And HARMLESS.

      As you say, no one knows what went on that night, except Zimmerman, who would not implicate himself. And the news media has made this a circus. But still, the way some people talk about this case (on both sides) baffles me. Why can’t we try to understand each other? Like I say to my kids. “Let’s talk it out.” LOL!

  11. I’m confused as to why this particular case received so much attention. Over the July 4th weekend 72 (yes 72!) murders occurred in Chicago. Where is the outrage as it relates to these families who have been torn apart?! The new nickname for Chicago is now Chiraq thanks to the fact that it is the murder capital of the country.

    It’s heartbreaking. Our lawmakers and media should be focused on these deplorable numbers; but sadly, it gets swept under the proverbial carpet every day. All we read about is how the murder rate is better than it has been. This is better?! Seriously!

    1. ….I think that’s partially why they like to put so much focus on this — hoping we don’t hear about what else is going on, such as in Chicago — already over 200 homicides this year. I’m particularly upset about Darryl Green, 16 yr old from Chicago, who was shot dead last week for refusing to join a gang…I mourn for him and the horrific death he suffered — it’s a tragic story – please pray for his family.

    2. Yes! I live outside of Chicago and wonder why the media isn’t calling for outrage about what’s going on in our city. I’m outraged! Sadly, I’m convinced it’s because of the neighborhoods where these crimes are taking place (low-income) and the fact that most of it is black-on-black crime–that just doesn’t seem to fit into the narrative they would like to promote.

      1. Shelly, I’m outside Chicago, too. It is amazing how they just ignore what’s happening in the city. I thank God every time I read the paper that I don’t live in those particular neighborhoods which are hardest hit by evil. It breaks my heart.

        The mayor’s latest solution is to fine those who have a gun $10,000 if they use or possess it in a school zone. Seriously? Those law-abiding gang bangers will definitely leave their guns at home as soon as this new law is in place! Sheesh!

  12. THIS is the best, most thoughtful post I’ve read about this whole mess. Thank you for writing it, Jo-Lynne. May God give us all the grace to understand our neighbors.

  13. Thank you for taking the risk to speak up on a sensitive subject. To be honest, I receive your updates because I like your taste in clothes and love getting ideas from you. Now I feel a sense of respect for you that will make enjoying your wardrobe suggestions even more enjoyable! May the Lord bless you and keep you!

  14. This was one of the most rational and sensitive posts on this case out there. Like you I did not follow the details of the case closely and so can not really speak about whether or not the verdict was the correct one. I also watched the feeds come through on Facebook and saw the hysteria in the media and was saddened to see such a divide based on race and political affiliation. I’m troubled by this because I almost feel as if the media loves to feed into the fears and prejudices of those on the far ends of our political spectrum. It only adds more tension to race relations.

    Thank you for expressing compassion to those of us with children that are not all white. As you know my son is mixed Asian and Caucasian. When Asian students were being violently targeted in South Philly a few years back simply because they were Asian you can not imagine the fear I felt in my heart for my son. Would he someday be the victim of a hate crime simply because of his ethnicity? So, in this way I completely understand what Trayvon’s parents and the many other mothers and fathers of children of color (and by this I mean all colors) feel when they send their children out into a world that still has too much hate in its heart.

  15. I have followed your blog for some time. I believe you are a sweet person with a good heart. I have also not followed the trial very closely but I know enough to say that different groups of people are discriminated against everyday. It is just not one group of people. Christians, people with disabilities, all colors of skin, women, men, ect. People who have ugly hearts are going to be ugly. They just use race or religion or whatever as a excuse for that hate.

    1. All true. And the hateful will be hateful, but that’s not what breaks my heart in this case. I can look past them.

      It’s the beautiful, kind, sweet friends I have that I see saying things that are so insensitive and cruel. And then the other beautiful, kind sweet friends who express their hurt and feelings of betrayal. I don’t understand why we can’t just listen to one another and try to walk in the other person’s shoes for a few minutes.

      As a Christian, as a conservative, and as a woman, I feel discriminated against at times — and devalued. I know how much it means to have someone from the “other side” listen to me and try to understand. That’s all I’m saying. Why can’t we just try to hear each other rather than spewing our agendas at one another all the time. Not that there isn’t a time to discuss the issues. But some of the stuff I’ve seen is just so insensitive. And I sense deep hurts among some of my friends, and that makes me sad.

      At the end of the day, I just want everybody to get along. LOL!!! I know. That ain’t happening…

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