A letter to my sons…

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It never occurred to me that when you were conceived, that while you were growing inside me, that I was about to give life to a child who would be in danger every day of his life. I don’t think it’s fair that I should have to think in those terms, but it is the reality. I don’t have to tell you that you automatically have a disadvantage to overcome because of your skin color, because you realize it every day.

It never occurred to me that your very existence would be a risk to your dignity and to your self esteem, let alone your safety and your very life. I am not an idealist who is under the false assumption that racism is a thing of the past. We sometimes live among pure racists who feel justified and proud of their bigotry and hatred, but we also live among people who think racism is a distant memory. You are well aware that it is anything but.

Justice For Trayvon Martin Foundation

It never occurred to me that anyone could simply look at you and automatically deem you a suspect. Not of a crime that had just occurred or of any specific crime, but of some imaginary crime, one that hasn’t even occurred. I suppose I may have been naive to think that type of profiling and those kinds of assumptions were a part of our history that is neither noble nor esteemed. But, yes, I did think that the rush-to-judgment lynching of black males (both literally and figuratively) was not something you would ever have to imagine, or fear.

It never occurred to me that someone could see you and assume that if you hadn’t committed a crime yet, you would, sooner or later. I guess many have become automatically programmed to think that, because of the narrative we have become accustomed to — that black males are just violent, that black males just commit crimes, that black males are just a threat to everyone’s property and personal safety.

It never occurred to me that your mere existence would instill fear or hatred or anger or frustration in people who know nothing about you, your gifts, your talents, and your character. I suppose those were lofty aspirations that I held for you (and for others); that your accomplishments and personality and talents would speak for themselves. I thought that those were the things that would speak to your personal worth and value.

It never occurred to me that you could be in danger every time you walk out the door, that any time you leave the sanctity of your home (and the solitary place where you might truly be safe), I might never see you alive again. Through no fault of your own, you might walk down the street and become profiled. And the presumption is that you should throw your hands up in an act of submission to anyone who confronts you, out of fear that your life might end because of what you look like, not because of who you are or something you may have done.

It never occurred to me that if someone follows you and tracks you down because of their mindset — not your actions — that you have few, if any options to ensure your safety, or your very life. It doesn’t appear as though self-defense is a choice that applies to you. And it doesn’t seem like your safety is anyone else’s concern, and you might have to make a split-second decision that won’t cost you your life or your freedom.

Justice For Trayvon Martin

It never occurred to me that a 17-year-old boy in Florida would make me realize this reality that is tragic and disheartening…but he has.

It never occurred to me that when I look at you and see Trayvon Martin, that’s not completely a bad thing. Because I see his value and his worth and his gifts, just as I see them in you. At the same time, when I see Trayvon Martin in you, I also worry and fear for your safety.

It never occurred to me that there are some who will look at you and also see Trayvon Martin, and that will be completely a bad thing. Because it means they see you as a suspect, and nothing more. Because it means they don’t see your worth and your value, but instead see a threat that isn’t really there.

It never occurred to me how much Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old boy I never met, would change my life and my perspective. I didn’t know that a boy who hadn’t yet realized his potential, who had his opportunities and dreams stolen from him based on assumptions that had nothing to do with who he was as a human being, would make me rethink my assumptions about your safety and security.

It has occurred to me that Trayvon Martin should not have to serve as a lesson or provide us the opportunity to talk about race and stereotypes and assumptions. Instead of having Trayvon with them, his family has to preserve his memory, seek justice on his behalf, and fight for his dignity and his legacy.

I wish as your mother, that Trayvon Martin was not now part of my perspective. But he is. Trayvon Martin is the lens by which I now see your reality and your very existence. And I wish with all my heart that wasn’t the case, that there was something I — or anyone — could do to erase that perspective. But there isn’t. For that, I am sorry.

It doesn’t, for one second, make me regret bringing you into this unsafe and unfair world. But it does make me regret that you have to live with that reality, every day. It’s tragic indeed that I didn’t realize how much danger you face, or how much you were at risk, until this teenager was killed. And, for that, I am sorry. For you, for Trayvon Martin, and for every Trayvon Martin who walks out his door into a world of assumptions and danger every day.

Justice For Trayvon Martin Foundation

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Comments

  1. says

    As a parent, I have anxiety and fear about my children’s safety. The best thing we can do is educate our children. And tell them they are loved. Show them they are loved. They will grow up to be kind people and teach their children the same morals and values.

  2. says

    Wow this absolutely awful to hear about what Trayvon has had to go through! that is absolutely terrible and mind-blowing at the same time that stuff like that does happen… Thank you so much for sharing this… it really gets you thinking… and gets you angry!

  3. says

    Wonderful letter to your sons. I am just so sad that you even had to write it. I am a mother of two young children and thinking of their future and the uncertainty it holds scares me to death. I did follow this case closely and was absolutely shocked with how it was handled. Holding my babies a little closer today.

    • says

      Thanks so much for your kind words, Jenn…following the case was hard, from beginning to end — but it was the underlying emotions/attitudes that came to the surface that I really found difficult to swallow. I guess as moms, we fear all sorts of different things when it comes to our kids. Just trying to fathom what these parents have had to endure is mind-boggling and heartbreaking.
      Kristin recently posted..Trayvon Martin’s legacy is justice…for everyone.My Profile

  4. says

    I often hear the phrase “I’m colorblind to skin color,” or something along those lines. But, the truth is that I don’t want people to become “colorblind.” Our skin color is an indication of our rich and diverse cultures and a part of who we are, and it shouldn’t be written off for fear of offending or being labeled a racist. However, what I would love to see is for people to forget and look past all of the negative and hurtful stereotypes associated with different skin colors. It isn’t the color of our skin that is the problem- only the negative stereotypes we associate with it. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we all learned about and celebrated the beautiful things about each other? :)

    • says

      Yes yes yes! I couldn’t agree with you more, Stacy! Thank you for saying exactly what I was thinking as well! I so appreciate when parents teach their children about different cultures, ethnicities, and skin colors. There is such beauty in that, and is part of who we were created to be.

  5. says

    I genuinely can’t wrap my head around racism. It just doesn’t make sense in any possible form. While I don’t have first hand experience with racial discrimination against myself or my child, I do worry about his safety. It’s tragic that we live in a world where we are judged based on things so irrelevant. We should be taking time to LEARN from one another, not fearing and hating each other.

  6. says

    It is amazing how differently you see things when you become a parent. Suddenly everything is magnified. The fears of the world, the hopes you have for your child. It all becomes so real. What a wonderful letter to your sons.

  7. says

    Your letter to you son is so heartfelt. I wish I had a magic wand to take the sadness and fear from every mother\’s heart. There is no one color of skin making mother\’s fear for their children. It is everywhere and it is escalating. It is beyond a movement and has become a way of life. Sadly there are those of every color who carry their hatred as a code of honor. There are more people of every color who are loving and compassionate. We are the people who need to stand beside each other no matter the color of skin, and respect each other, care for each other without suspicion, and start living life as we know it should be.

  8. says

    I want nothing more to live in a world which every single person does not see skin color but rather the person which stands before them. Until we can just do that and coexist – we’ll never realize what kind of world we are really missing out on. I am blessed each and every day to have an amazing mother who brought me up to never see color. I am blessed each and every day to have married into a family of a different race. And even though we are no longer married, during that time I was able to teach so many people to open their eyes against their own insecurites about race. I doubt the world will ever change. Hatred is an evil thing. But we can stand together to try to make it better, one person at a time.

  9. says

    I get it, but on a different level. I have girls – they are often victims of misconceptions. I also have a daughter with autism, and believe me, people have the wrong ideas about her too. Yes, she’s in danger in many ways. The same, but different.

  10. says

    Tough to be a parent sometimes. I have 4 children so I understand some of your heart. Here\’s to your sons working to improve things for your grandchildren. God bless you all.

  11. says

    A beautiful letter to your son. Its so sad that the world judges people by the color of their skin, race or nationality and not by the actions they perform. The world would be a different place.

  12. says

    Kristin, your post has moved me so deeply. It’s full of incredible beauty, honesty, and the love of a mother who will do anything to protect the sons she loves. My husband and I (both white) are in the process of adopting. We are open to adopting a sibling group of children of any race. When we were going through our transracial adoption training, I was so thankful to finally be faced with the reality of my white privilege. Learning about race in this way was incredibly eye-opening, and has changed my life forever. I am preparing my heart now for the possibility of having “The Talk” (similar to many statements you’ve made above) if we are placed with children who have black or brown skin. It terrifies me, but I know it will be necessary.

    Your words here are so true …”I am not an idealist who is under the false assumption that racism is a thing of the past…we sometimes live among pure racists who feel justified and proud of their bigotry and hatred but we also live among people who think racism is a distant memory although it is anything but.” One of the most frustrating things for me is the latter statement. I see it all around me…jokes made about other cultures, and ethnicities, and a subtle attitude (and arrogance) from other white friends and family who assume everything is “fine” now. Sadly, that’s just not the case.

    I love what Stacy said about, about how we should not pursue being “colorblind.” I wholeheartedly agree, and believe it’s dangerous to continue teaching our children to disregard someone’s race. There is so much beauty in the unique way we were created. Thank you, Kristin, for your words. I’m so glad you wrote them.

  13. says

    Thanks for sharing your perspective on this racially and politically charged conversation. There is evil all around us and there is persecution of all types. We do our best to educate and protect our children about the world we live in.

  14. says

    This is a great letter to read to your sons. Tragedy has a way to making us take note of lots of different things for different reasons. This one in particular still to this day continues to teach us lessons.

  15. says

    I don’t think there is any emotion as strong as the one of a mother fearing for her child no matter what causes that fear but we can’t let that fear rule our lives because then we become victim to it.

    I agree that we don’t need to become color blind but that we need to stop the negative thoughts about others. Sadly I don’t see it happening when you have people on all sides refusing to let go of their fears, tensions and negativity. When you have people who refuse to believe, hope or work towards a post racial world it’ll never get better. And that is one of the greatest tragedies of humankind.

    • says

      Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment, Felicia. I couldn’t agree more with your comment, unfortunately. We can only hope and try to remain optimistic.

  16. says

    Very well written post Kristin! This trial has taught us a lot of culture and that racism is still alive to this day. I hope many of us can learn from this and make others aware of the dangers that surround us every day. Thank you for sharing!

    • says

      Thank you, Charlotte! I’ve followed the case very closely (sometimes too closely, for my peace of mind, I think)…and regardless of the politics and the policies and the arguments surrounding the whole thing, at the end of the day, this is about a child who never made it home from the store. Many want to obscure the situation by bring up this person’s past or casting aspersions about this or that, etc. That doesn’t matter to me (well, not in this context). What matters is that, statistically, my sons can be in — apparently — grave danger surely because of someone’s assumptions about them because of their appearance. And I know that applies to a lot of different people, not just people of color…and it’s sad, frightening, and so terribly disheartening.
      Kristin recently posted..Trayvon Martin’s legacy is justice…for everyone.My Profile

  17. says

    Wow, who would’ve thought that as parents we would EVER have to worry about our kids like we do. Whether they’re in danger at the hands of others, of natural disasters, of sickness, we just don’t know do we?
    I’ve found my only peace comes from putting their lives in Gods hands and trusting Him and no one or nothing else.
    So sorry you have to even write a letter like this to your children. No parent should have to feel this way.
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    • says

      Thank you, Molly, for sharing your thoughts on this. And, you’re right. I write (and think) from my specific lens, but unfortunately, there are parents all over who fear for their children, for one reason or another. Beyond educating and raising awareness…there’s not much we can do, other than pray and hope and trust. That’s about it.
      Kristin recently posted..9/11: When I didn’t know.My Profile

  18. says

    You write beautifully. You can’t help but keep reading your words.

    As a parent…every child is my child. It hurts to my very core when I hear that a child has been hurt or killed. I remember during the Casey Anthony trial…just weeping for this little girl. Weeping for her in a way only a mother could. In a way I knew Casey Anthony didn’t.

    When the verdict came in for Trayvon Martin – I again started to wonder what is wrong with the world. And what is wrong with our justice system? Racism runs rampant in every race. There are horrific people in the world. It’s a very scary world for our children. It’s a very scary world for women. There is a pedophile on every block it seems. Another teen runaway story in the paper. A missing woman’s picture displayed on the eleven o’clock news. Some days I wish I could just move to an island with my daughters and never look back.

    Trayvon Martin could have been anyone’s child. He was taken from this world simply because a man named George Zimmerman had hate in his heart.

    That’s what scares me. The people out there who have so much hate in their heart for other races. Hate in their heart towards women. My oldest daughter is half-black. I wondered…can I ever just let her walk down the block without worrying? The answer is unfortunately no.

    I love this country because I was born here. Because I raised to love it. But do I think we have it all figured out as a nation? Not even close. Our kids are being shot in their classrooms. Our sons murdered for simply walking down the street. Toddlers dead in their mother’s trunk while mommy is out partying. It seems like we have spent more years as a nation and more time rioting same sex marriages than the murder of our children.
    I don’t think we are even close to having it all figured out.

    • says

      Thanks so much for your kind and thoughtful feedback, Aimee. And, I agree with you, on every single point. It’s as though Trayvon Martin was the cause of the moment and now we’ve moved on. I’m not saying that Trayvon Martin’s life is more important than any child who is murdered every single day…but he was a symbol, and he represented something we could stand behind and use to start a dialogue…someone who we could look to and face our perceptions and biases and feelings. And, so quickly we seem to have moved on. Forgotten. Not by the people who loved him — or the people who hated what he represented — or by the people who use his death (and life) as a new way to look at life, at the people around us, and at our laws, politicians, and society in general.

      We’re not close to figuring out, but hopefully our kids will be. :)
      Kristin recently posted..Trayvon Martin’s legacy is justice…for everyone.My Profile

    • says

      Thank you, Jennifer. It’s a very peculiar reality and perspective. Race pervades other aspects of our life as well. Not to lessen the enormity of this issue, but I recall when my children were toddlers and if they acted like normal kids in the store, like making noise and being active — nothing crazy like knocking over displays or whatnot, I would get extremely disapproving looks and people would shake their heads and mutter things under their breath. But I would see other children doing the same (or worse), and no one would give it a second thought or a second look. In fact, sometimes I’d see them engage the parents and say things like, “Boy, he’s a bundle of energy!” or “She must keep you on your toes!” I never got that. That was the start of my life lesson that my kids had to toe a different line than other kids…and they were judged by different standards. Granted, it is getting better…and not everyone is like this, but it’s out there. And it’s a tremendous burden.
      Kristin recently posted..20 Things You Didn’t Know About MeMy Profile

  19. says

    As a Black woman to a Black son, I totally related to this. I felt similarly during the whole Trayvon Martin ordeal. Terrifying and ridiculous that we have to worry about our sons being targeted or gunned down simply because of their skin color. I am seriously considering moving to a different country where race is not as much of an issue.

    • says

      Thanks, Tiffany…and I am right with you. It’s a very frightening reality in this country. And, it’s also disturbing that people don’t “get” how we feel. (Not everyone of course, but there are definitely “sides” of this issue.) If we take race out of it and make the victim Jewish or gay or handicapped or ________, that’s the problem. Of course, black vs. white is the most obvious division in this country…but the truth of the matter is, it’s the fear and disdain for those who represent “other” or “different.” And that’s what should be frightening and sad and a letdown for everyone.

  20. says

    My husband and I were just talking about our concern for the boys we work with at church and our own son, about how culture is swinging towards always being ready to cast blame on them wrongly, not necessarily in a racial sense, but in other ways. So sad.

    • says

      Isn’t that awful? I can’t imagine being the young man who is perceived as a “thug” or a “suspect” for no reason at all. That’s a difficult challenge to overcome, if it can be. It is indeed tragic.

  21. says

    Trayvon Martin could have been my high school classmate, my best friend’s son, the kid waiting for the trolley… it is so sad that after so many YEARS… so many years, we are still not *over* skin color. But even worse is the mentality that it is “OK” to shoot someone b/c they “look” suspicious…. it justifies and perpetuates racism instead of opening doors to understanding.

    Thank you for your blog; you are a door to dialogue and change.

    • says

      Thank you, Natasha, for your thoughtful comments. It means a lot to have such positive and kind feedback.

      And, of course, I agree with you 100%. Those who argue against Trayvon Martin and say he was “responsible” for his own death ignore the very real fact that Trayvon Martin had a right to defend himself against a grown man who was following him in the dark (and, I would argue, between the two, Trayvon Martin might have been the one more in fear for his safety, since he was being followed by an adult, and he was unarmed, but hey…that’s just my opinion). And, no matter what Trayvon Martin had ever done in his life prior to that night, the man who killed him didn’t know any of that. He only knew what he SAW. And that was a young black male in a hoodie.

  22. says

    What a powerful piece . . . so sad yet so true! I have two brothers and nephew, and I can readily identify with this post. It\’s maddening to know that some people consider our responses to Trayvon\’s death as \”overreacting.\” Sigh.Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings, and may God\’s love, grace and protection overshadow your sons and all our children.

    • says

      I get that whole “over-reacting” thing A LOT. I also have been accused of being close-minded and not seeing Trayvon Martin for who he really was (sinner or saint, his background or his mistakes as a 17-year-old were irrelevant to being profiled that night), and ignoring his “role” in his own death. I don’t comprehend that sentiment…because, well, I don’t look at it that way. I see it in the bigger context (without ignoring the circumstances of Trayvon Martin’s death, of course), as to how we’re so divided and how discussions about race are so polarizing, as well as the reality of being black in America. I don’t get how all of that is lost on so many…but hopefully things will get better. We can keep hoping, and praying.

  23. says

    I’ve heard a lot of make the statement lately that they are almost afraid to bring an innocent and vulnerable child into such a dangerous world. I don’t have children yet, but I’m sure I’ll have my share of anxiety for their safety too.

  24. kathryn Evans says

    I am sadden that I will/need to have this same conversation with my sons. This has now become our new reality. How do we protect our sons from the color of their skin and others opinions??

    • says

      I don’t know…I am trying to figure this out as well. I don’t know that we can. That’s the hard part. There’s always that motivation to drive our children to over-achieve, to disprove others’ perceptions and stereotypes, etc…but those accomplishments don’t mean anything when someone sees you walking down the street and assumes you’re a criminal, or about to be a criminal. That’s sad, and scary.

  25. says

    I come from a country where racism is not a thing…we are all one as far as I am concerned. But I guess other folks and cultures view differently..that is so sad!

  26. says

    Thank you, thank you for sharing such a personal letter. Your words were great and heart felt. I identify with your truth and enjoyed hearing a sentiment that I mirror.

    Crystal @ frugalscout

  27. says

    This is a touching post. I am sure that your sons will appreciate it more and more as they grow up and eventually have their own children. We are living in changing times and I have to lean on my faith even more.

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