Is My Child Next?

Be forewarned: This post is not for the faint of heart or anyone looking for my usual happy-go-lucky post. I’m speaking as a Black Parent.

On February 26, 2012, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot to death as he walked home. He wasn’t purchasing drugs. He wasn’t robbing anyone. He wasn’t a part of a gang. He was a straight A student, walking home from the store with a pack of candy and a beverage. A self-appointed neighborhood watch “captain”, George Zimmerman, saw a black male walking through HIS neighborhood and decided that the young man was up to no good. He followed him while he spoke with a 911 operator and shot the young man. He claimed he shot the unarmed teenager in self-defense. The police took him at his word. As of the date of this post, he has not been arrested.

Most of you already know that Trayvon Martin is black and George Zimmerman is white (some reports say he is hispanic). Some of you will say, race should not matter. But it does. My daughter is 15 years old. I have to explain to my daughter why a grown man was afraid of a 17-year-old child. I have to explain to her that are people who will smile in her face by day, and loathe her existence just because her skin is dark. She will be driving soon. I have to make sure she understands the rules of the road, and the rules of driving while black. In a few more years, she will be on her way to college. I have to tell her about how to be safe on campus, and how to deal with people who will accuse her of “taking” a white student’s “spot” because of the college’s affirmative action program. If she drives a nice car, it will raise questions about how she (or I) am able to afford such a nice vehicle. Yes. I really have to tell my daughter about these things.

Actually, we’ve had many of these discussions already. I’ve had to tell her that people draw an opinion about her based on her zip code, and the fact that she is being raised in a single parent home. Teachers have raised questions about “problems at home” because we fit that certain demographic from which “at risk youth” come. I’ve already told her that no matter how good she is, she will always have to be so much better just to be considered adequate in our society.

I hate having to add the lesson about walking while black. “Baby-girl, never walk by yourself. Definitely don’t walk at night, with a group or by yourself. And DON’T wear a hoody. DON’T stop for candy, or chips or a drink. If you see someone following you and they say they are from neighborhood watch, stop. Lay on the ground. Carefully pull out your cell phone while stating, very loudly, ‘I DON’T HAVE A GUN!’ and dial 911. Make sure you speak loud, so they will hear the conversation clearly. Don’t make eye contact. Don’t yell help. No one will come. Yell ‘fire.’ Baby-girl, just stay inside. The world is far too dangerous…for you.”

Raising a child is hard. Raising a black child is harder.

Am I Next? (Trayvon Martin)

Please, sign the petition. (Link updated July 17, 2013)


16 thoughts on “Is My Child Next?

  1. Great post, Nike! It is so sad that we have to have these discussions with our children, but it is important that we do and it’s so sad the world is like it is today. R.I.P Trayvon Martin

    1. Losing a child this way is hard to fathom. My heart aches for the family, and I pray that God will give them the strength, comfort, and support they need to make it through this difficult time. I don’t think putting pictures like this one, or children holding posters asking, “Am I Next?, is going to help the family or our society. My father told me that using the race card would only hurt myself & take away opportunities. I am so glad I listened to him, and taught my children the same.

      1. Good Morning Maria. Thanks for your comment. I’m glad you were taught not to play the race card, but the race card is not being played on this post. Unfortunately, race is still a serious issue in this country. Just because racial epithets were not explicitly (used to our knowledge) when this crime was committed or during the trial, that does not mean Trayvon Martin was not racially profiled.

        If you don’t believe me, look up the stories of Oscar Grant III, Amadou Diallo, Sean Bell, Canard Arnold, Ramarley Graham, Jordan Russell Davis.

        Every time my 16 year old daughter goes out, I remind her to be careful because the assumption is black kids are up to no good. I have to tell her how to behave to make everyone else feel safe around her. There is no safe place for her. My friend’s have to teach their black son’s how to seem non-threatening. Black children cannot just ‘be.”

        With this week’s verdict in the trial, I am one of many black parents in America asking, “Is my child next.” Trayvon Martin was walking home. He wasn’t bothering a soul and he was shot because he was labelled as a “suspect” by George Zimmerman. You call it “playing the race card.” I call it a legitimate concern.

  2. and even harder… i am raising 3 black teens…..pray…
    i always say…we have come so far…but still have sooooo far to go…
    Great write nike…as always

      1. Hi Judy! Thanks for your comment. The real issue is not the race of the shooter, but that the wheels of justice seem to move very slowly when the victim is black. Do you recall the Jena 6? (See the stories here: The victim in that case was white. The 6, black young men who were alleged to have assaulted the victim were quickly arrested, and initially charged with Attempted Second Degree Murder (charges were later reduced). One of the teens was charged as an adult and served time. The weapon: a tennis shoe. The families of these 6 black teens were harassed, their families were threatened and intimidated because they dared to bring national attention to the story. In contrast, on December 1, 2006, in the same community, there was a fight between black students and white men (not a student) outside of a private party. One of the white men was charged with Battery and placed on probation. What was the difference? Skin color.

        What I and many others would like to see are the same rules applied regardless of race. The investigation into Trayvon’s case seems to have ended when Zimmerman said he was defending himself. If it wasn’t for the persistence of Trayvon’s parents, we would not heard about this case.

  3. “Extremeism in defense of liberty is no vice; moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.” – Malcolm X.
    If one feels unsettled by the depiction of the young pregnant woman exposing her abdomen with the seering questiion, “Am I next?”, then one should. That is the point. It is supposed to be unsettling. But the concern is supposed to be for this woman and her child because they are going to feel this anxiety for the rest of their lives. There are those who will never feel this anxiety because they are not physically percieved as “threatening”. The picture is extreme. Justifiably so because it is needed to juxtapose an attitude of indifference, if not abject opposition to the very basic liberty enjoyed by one segment of our population simultaneously denied to another. Every time I hear the phrase “playing the race card” I realize that it is an attempt to ameliorate the shame of having an obviously erroneous attitude toward the prevalent disparity consistently rendered in the American justice system. Paraphrasing Malcolm X once again: “Even when they’re wrong, they have to be right.”

    1. I am Hispanic, and grew up in a 99% white town. My dad was a Mulatto. I get it! I suffered many bumps and bruises along the way, to put it mildly, and experienced first hand ignorant comments, looks and actions, but through my dad’s positive attitude and encouragement I learned that getting myself all worked up would only hold me back. He told me that an effective way to change ignorance was through our own actions. If we would just keep doing what was right and legal, ignorant people, some, would realize that they were the one’s with a problem. I followed his advice. Some of these ignorant people that I am referring to changed their opinions about me, and became my friends. Others, I chose not to ever be acquainted with, did not believe their change to be real.
      Not too long ago I was leaving a nearby mall, and saw 3 teenagers coming out of a store. They were cracking up, and giving each other high fives. One had something a bit large under his jacket, which he pulled out to show the others. They started walking home. Something told me to follow them, and tell them that God loved them and had better plans for them. When the one with the item heard me say this he looked like he had seen a ghost. I drove away hoping that those few words would serve an encouragement to change their ways. We need to love & protect each other, no matter what color or race we are. These were young people not making good decisions, not bad people, just young.
      Believe me, I understand something horrible happened, and I can’t imagine how Trayvon’s family will move on without him. I will keep his mom and dad in my prayers. I also understand that the law in Florida, which gave Zimmerman the right to act in this manner, and not send him to jail for the crime needs to be examined. It just upsets me when things are turned into a race issue. In my mind it makes things worst. Let’s encourage each other to go about changes in a peaceful way. We will have a stronger army. God bless!

      1. Maria, with all due respect, this was not “turned into” a race issue. It was a “race issue” from the moment that Mr. Zimmerman took it upon himself to stalk a Black teenager whom he deemed suspicious simply because of his appearance…because he was a young black man wearing a hoodie, because, in his words…”these *ssholes always get away with it.” It was a race issue from the moment those who are supposed to administer justice in this country continually fail to do so on a fair and equitable basis toward citizens of African descent. I admire your father’s, (and by extension yours) faith that exuding positive character traits will change perceptions. Understand that the vast majority of us follow those same precepts…to no avail. My parents instilled in me the same values. Those were the values instilled in them by their parents. And their parents received the same values from their parents. But it is not enough. It may work with a few of those who you get to know, but this type of endemic disparity is pathological. This fight for equitable treatment in this society has ALWAYS included the strategy of passive resistance, exhibiting noble character, demonstrating the “pulling oneself up by one’s own bootstraps” attitude, yet we continue to be judged negatively based on appearance alone. We continue to press forward in positivity. In fact, one only has to look at Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton to see illuminating grace in the face of reprehensible unfairness. Yet, wrongs need to be called out. Those of us who are appalled at the way this case was handled are righteously indignant.

  4. Maria, I’m not discounting the need for a positive attitude, but in the words of Iyanla Vanzant: Sometimes you have to call a “thing” a “thing.” This ‘thing’ has an ugly past, present, and if we just “keep a positive” attitude this “thing” is going to continue to get uglier and uglier in the future. You said that your dad, “told me that an effective way to change ignorance was through our own actions.” He’s absolutely right. Action is required. Education is required. A sense of reality is required. Putting on rose colored glasses is not going to change those who are hell bent on hating minorities. But I don’t have to stand still and be quiet while they run rampant. And before you go there, no, I’m not suggesting violence. I’m suggestion education, starting at home. I can’t send my child out into this world believing that these horrible things don’t exist. She hears the news. Telling her to just be positive could be her un-doing. I have to teach her how to be aware. I have to teach her precisely what her rights are. I have to teach her how to navigate the system that was never built with her rights in mind.

    1. CoolpapaRonald, You seem like a respectful man, and I appreciate and respect what you wrote. I hope there’s many more like you out there trying to change this world. I would definitely listen to what you have to say.
      Nike, You are right when you say that action & education, not violence, is required in order for things to change. You are mistaken if from what I wrote you believe that I am not in ck with reality. I see and call things for what they are. I’m outspoken, and I would be the first one in a group to speak out when I see injustice. It makes me ill to think what happened to Trayvon, and the emptiness & sadness his family has and will suffer for the rest of their lives. I am glad you are taking the time teaching your children there’s evil out there. You are a smart mom. I also believe like you that ignoring things is not the way to go, but going about it using children is an absolute NO in my book. I believe having children holding up signs when they are so young, and don’t fully understand the issue is wrong. We should not have them fighting adult battles.

      1. Thanks for the compliment. Maria, go back and look at the civil right’s movement. Many of the people who where marching, sitting in, protesting and having fire hoses and police dogs turned on them were about Trayvon Martin’s age.

        That picture may make you uncomfortable, but when that picture was taken, that young mother was expressing the fears and concerns she had for her unborn child. You can’t ignore that. You can’t close your eyes to it. It’s real.

  5. Reblogged this on Nikewrites' Blog and commented:

    I’m sharing this post again. I received an interesting comment this morning about the picture I used. The verdict of ‘not guilty’ in the George Zimmerman case earlier this week has a lot of people either talking about race or trying to run from it. But in the words of Iyanla Vanzant, “Sometimes you have to call a ‘thing’ a ‘thing.’ That time is now.

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