|Elayna & son|
Elayna now returns to the bar.
Trayvon Martin, Trayvon Martin, this name now bounces around my head day after day, week after week as more and more tidbits of information are trickled down to the public. Trayvon Martin and Sanford, FL, over and over again I hear it echo in my brain. For me this has become a personal painful reminder of my encounters with the city of Sanford back in 1994. It is a reminder that though I am a white woman my son is indeed Trayvon Martin and though he did not die, Sanford certainly did all that it could in an attempt to kill him.
I am the Caucasian mother of an African American man, who, like so many in this country, fell to the system of “justice” designed to remove him from society as he entered into manhood and disenfranchise him from the freedom this country is supposed to represent. Many look at me and say, “but, he’s also white”….really? Not in this society. In this society, my son is Trayvon Martin.
I think back on the day he was born and how naïve I was to the racial divide in this country. When I looked down on his perfect little face, I saw beauty, I saw promise, I saw my gift from God. Society saw…Trayvon Martin.
They saw a target.
I tried hard to not believe how difficult his life could and would become because of his race and how his race is perceived by those who determine his guilt simply due to what they see. He would follow the same road as many Trayvon Martins who are deemed guilty for being darker; guilty for being alive. He would be found guilty because he expected to be treated by society as his white mother is treated. In fact, he was guilty of this. He did expect to be treated the same and he was wrong for thinking that he could be and so was I. You see, as I said, when society sees my son, they see Trayvon Martin.
I probably should have realized where his life would go early on when I found myself struggling with the education system. From kindergarten through high school I fought long and hard simply looking for equal education to his white counterparts. I endured the surprised looks when I would identify this child of color as my son. I would wrestle with the education officials determined to force them to overlook the shade of his skin and properly educate him. It was a long and very difficult endeavor, but it wouldn’t be until he left the confines of school and entered society that the realization of the difficulties he would endure because of his skin color would arise.
Yet and still, in my naiveté, I believed that this country was moving forward and that someday in my son’s lifetime he would find a playing field that was almost level. After all, he was born in 1973, a time that was closer to the foundation of civil rights than today’s tragedy of the death of Trayvon Martin. The year of my son’s birth was a time when interracial children were a rare sight. It was a time when doors could and would close to apartments, jobs, and education yet, open to jail and prison cells simply because of the color of one’s skin. A time when walking anywhere but the depths of an inner city could get an African American killed. Oh wait…Trayvon Martin…2012…what’s different?
It was in 1994 that I, like many African American mothers, got “the call.” My son had been arrested for a crime that a five year old could prove that he did not commit. For the police in Sanford, it was a no brainer. They took the black kid and left the white one free. There was never an investigation. There was never a trial. There was a death penalty hung over our heads until we folded like a cheap suit and took a plea simply to save my son’s life fearing what the racist judicial system of Sanford, FL could do to him. The real criminal was left free to do more damage because the Sanford police force, State Attorney and Public Defender assigned to my son’s case refused to believe that a white female could have committed this crime, even though all information culled from her history determined exactly that. I was left with the understanding that there was no way they would let this white female walk the yards of Florida prisons when they had a young African American male in their clutches.
The city of Sanford cost my son eleven years of his life. Eleven years that we will never get back. Eleven years of an informal education on this country’s judicial system for me that began in this southern city. Eleven years that stripped away my rose colored glasses when dealing with society and allowed me to see just how serious the result of racism is. You see during this time I realized that within the white side of my family, I didn’t know someone who knew someone in jail let alone prison. In fact, on the white side of my family, there are several people who are correction officers. However, on the black side of my family, 5 people in the immediate family were in prison. Too many to count were dealing with the justice system in one fashion or another. I also found that African American children die, but no one hears their mothers’ cries because it simply isn’t news. They go missing and no one ever knows. They are imprisoned at an astronomical rate, yet it’s ignored as if we never left the chain gang mentality of the 1800s.
In fact, today I worry more for my son and even more for my grandson and once again it was the city of Sanford that brought this fear back to the surface. Today, with the death of this child, I again shake my head with a heavy heart wondering just when America will actually embrace the “melting pot” values that it touts. In 1994, Sanford became my education on a racist system while I fought them for my son’s life. Today, 2012 and there is no change, no forward movement, no expectation of equality or equal justice within the law. Today another statistic rears its ugly head as we add yet another African America child’s name to the roster of dead children whose lives bring little by way of justice.
While so many people are wearing hoodies in response to this tragedy, I find myself wearing a hoodie of fear that every mother of a child of color wears.
I wear the hoodie of fear of a grandmother and auntie of children of color.
I cry the same tears of these mothers, sisters, grandmothers and aunts. I find myself mentally revisiting my encounter with the city of Sanford, FL and all that it represents to me as it villainizes a child wearing a hoodie, eating skittles and drinking iced tea while walking in the land of the free.
Yes, Trayvon Martin is my son, my grandson, my nephews. With firsthand knowledge of the antics of this southern city of Sanford, FL I say it’s time to pull the trigger on the blatant racism that the death of this child, my child, has exposed. It’s time for Sanford and cities like it to move into what should be a race-less society, but is not. It’s time for change and time for change now….not in another 20 years.
I too am Trayvon Martin’s mom and on this I Stand My Ground.