I know that by now Trayvon Martin is yesterday’s news to many, but the fact remains, he is still dead and his parents will have to live with that for the rest of their lives.
No matter what happens, George Zimmerman killed their son. If he goes to prison or if he goes free, Trayvon’s parents will still have lost their child.
I can’t stop thinking about them. About him. But mostly about them. Because while he is gone, they must still wonder every day if they could have done something differently in their parenting that would have saved him. Maybe his father wishes he had driven Trayvon to the store that night. Maybe he wishes he would have told his son these things about being a young, black man. Or maybe he did, and he’s thinking that he missed some other teaching moments.
Now, I’m not saying that they did anything wrong. Not in the slightest. But if it were me, I’d probably obsess over these details for years.
Parents tend to believe they can safeguard their children from everything if only we tell them all the stuff they need to know.
I think this. At least, I tell myself regularly that if only I make sure to mention this thing to Annika, yes, then she will be okay. Her life will be good.
But I worry. I worry that I won’t have a clue what to tell her about race or about being a black woman in the United States. And Toyin won’t know all that stuff either, because he’s a man.
Trayvon Martin’s murder was a huge wake up call to me. After reading articles about all the things we need to tell black boys about being a black male in the U.S. I started to wonder, “But what do we tell the girls?”
I used to plan and think of all the ways I could ensure her happiness and contented life. Now, I wonder what things I need to stress to her so that she will just stay alive, and/or without suffering an assault.
Maybe it’s selfish of me. But I don’t have a boy. I have a girl. What do I tell her?
I don’t know. I have vague memories of learning such things about black people, black women, when I was young, but I have forgotten them all. They came from a place of ignorance, immaturity, and just plain stupidity. I came to learn that they were not true. I forgot them. And I am sure that with a new generation of youngsters, there are probably many things I have never even known.
I am that place of mid-life where past memories have become hazy and new information is not always so easily accessible. It’s a dangerous place to be when you are the mother of a child of color.
I need to know these things. Or at least, I need to find out how Annika can learn about them.
Annika will grow up having to learn much of these things on her own, from friends, from relatives, but not from me. Sure, I can ask around. I can assist. But I do not know what it feels like to have certain stereotypes put on me. I think that I’m not even sure what they are, and even if I do know some of them, I don’t know what it feels like to be in those shoes.
It worries me. And for the first time since becoming a parent, I feel completely absorbed with the not knowing.
Before, and especially when she an infant, I told myself there would be time. I could learn it all. But there comes a time when you are faced with the fact that there are just certain things you will not be able to protect your child from. And there are some things you will never even know.