I was dismayed by the Trayvon Martin verdict on Saturday. I’m quick to admit that I don’t know everything that happened that night. The only two who really do are Zimmerman and Trayvon. Maybe if I’d been the juror, I’d not have found the evidence convincing enough to convict Zimmerman either. I don’t know.
But here’s something I do know, and it’s the reason I’m writing. Racism is alive and well in America. There are a lot of people who think it is practically extinct, or that it’s a small issue that ‘some’ folks are trying to whip into something big.
Those folks are just plain wrong.
I have adoptive-momma friends who tell me how often their black sons are pulled over driving to the grocery store. And how their white sons aren’t. I’ve watched videos like this with my mouth hanging open. I’ve read how African American families routinely teach their kids how to respond to police in non-inflammatory ways. Because it’s necessary.
I’ve given my own kids some of that same training. When I send 2 or 3 of my (minority) teens together into the dollar store, I always remind them to be on best behavior, be polite, don’t even look like you’re trying to pocket anything, and never give a store clerk the tiniest reason to be suspicious. I’ve told my kids that most people are kind, but that some see a lot more in skin color than is fair or true. It’s best to behave carefully. Sometimes that means not wearing hoodies or walking outside after dark. And yeah, that reality stinks.
But what can we do?
I do believe that most folks want to treat people fairly, that they’d like to be a part of the solution instead of part of the problem. If that’s you, then here’s a great place to start: Not Guilty: Now What?
No matter whether we agree with the ruling of the court or not, we cannot sweep a whole lot of people’s experiences under the rug. We need to be wary of making that mistake especially if we’ve never experienced racism personally. (3 Things Privileged Christians Can Learn From Trayvon)
We need to work harder to make friends with folks of every color, even if sometimes that mean stepping out of our little comfortable bubbles. Living life around folks who don’t ‘match’ us colorwise helps us see folks as individuals, hear their stories—for example:Race, Trayvon Martin, and Our National Wakeup Call– even if the truth is hard to hear, even if it doesn’t jive with what we’ve experienced. (Reflections on Being a Black Man in America).
We’ve got to be aware of what’s really happening in the world (the real one, not the one we WISH for) because our kids are absorbing what we teach, learning from the experiences we give them. While they’re young, they are living lives crafted by us. They’re spending time with folks we choose, and they’re learning to be comfortable around the children we place them with. This is certainly true in the tiny years, but to a degree (based on where we choose to live, and who our family associates with, and where we go to church and school) we as parents still affect the lives even of older children. Why not give them diverse experiences?
Four of our six kids still at home are Ethiopian. Two are Korean. (We’ve also got four white kids who are grown.) They were all homeschooled, all taught and raised and fiercely loved by the same white parents. But they each go out into the world wearing the skin they were born in. And that skin DOES affect how they are seen by some. So I will continue to tell them that most folks are kind, that they have a world of opportunity before them, that they can trust God and work hard and enjoy life. But I’m also preparing them for the fact that a few folks may judge them based solely on the color of their skin.
Because –even as we work hard to try to change it, even as we wish it were not so–that IS the kind of world we live in.
And the sooner we can face facts, the sooner we can get serious about working to make it better.Pin It