Last night I checked twitter and facebook. I saw post after post from friends with words like “Sick.” “Disgusted.” “So wrong.” I knew immediately that a verdict was in for George Zimmerman, and that it wasn’t what I’d hoped it would be.
And I felt terrible. But as I scrolled through and saw more – “We are all Trayvon’s mom” “Hoodies up!” – I knew that I was not feeling this verdict in the pit of my stomach like some of my friends and neighbors probably were. I have a white son, not a black one. I’m a bystander in this. I don’t have skin in the game.
There is not a doubt in my mind that if George Zimmerman had been black and Trayvon Martin white, there would have been a guilty verdict. An adult black man with a gun stalking a white kid? That is something this country would not stand for. An arrest would have been swift. Right-wing pundits would have been in a lather, calling for blood.
But that wasn’t the case, of course. And while I get to go on with my life as normal, I’m sure there are many moms of black boys who now feel like open-season has been declared on their sons, thanks to a ridiculous Florida law. And I can say how sorry I am, and I can try to feel what they’re feeling, but it will never be part of my daily life like it will be theirs.
When my son leaves the house in the morning, I worry about him. I worry about him getting hit by a car, mostly. I give him warnings about looking both ways before crossing. I worry about him getting mugged or getting into a fight at school. I have the privilege of not worrying about him being profiled and stalked and shot when he’s doing nothing wrong.
I can not imagine what my friends go through when they send their sons out into the world each day. What do they have to remind their kids? Don’t wear a hoodie. Don’t keep your hands in your pockets when you go into a store. If a cop tells you to stop, put your hands up and freeze. If you’re pulled over in a car, put your hands on the windshield and do exactly what the cops say. Don’t run. Don’t talk back. Good advice for everyone, but it doesn’t matter equally for everyone.
I have a hard time getting worked up about the jury. I have a feeling that based on the evidence and the law, their verdict was correct. And that, of course, is the crux of the problem.
The fact is, we are not all Trayvon’s mom. Some of us get to glide through life not worrying about such things. But until more white people can empathize with their black neighbors (what? You don’t have black neighbors? Well, that might be part of your problem right there…), until we can sympathize with what it must be like for those parents of blacks boys, until we come to terms with how easy we have it, until we can change laws that make it easy for these tragedies to happen, they will continue to happen.