Today is Sean’s last day of Spring Break. Coincidentally, it’s also his belt test day, so the plan was to keep things light and fun. He got a haircut, and then we pranced off to the bookstore with no worries about how long we spent there. We went to TJ’s, to spend the $25 gift card I won on new things (aaaand since he got to choose, I know you’re all shocked that it was largely cheese, salmon iterations, and chocolate cookies). We snagged lunch at Whole Foods, and piled into the bed to play the new angry birds side by side on our iPads.
And then, during a break from blowing up evil space pigs, I saw this:
My hand flew to my mouth, and belatedly I kicked myself. Because, of course, the gesture caught his attention, and then there were questions. How do you tell your 8 year old that a 17 year old boy was killed because of the color of his skin?
Straight up, as it turns out. Straight up. I told him what happened. Where young mister Martin had been. The actions of his killer. The fact that there was now evidence that flew in the face of the ‘Stand Your Ground’ statute. That I, as the mother of a white boy, don’t worry when I let him sit at a table in Whole Foods, or wander Barnes and Noble. No one’s going to look at him in- yes- his hoodie, and baggy jeans and rumpled t-shirt and think he’s going to try to shoplift or steal a purse. I taught him the word privilege and that he has it- oh, how he has it- because of the color of his skin (and, I added as an aside, his economic station and his maleness). I mentioned classmates- how if L was a boy, and dressed like him, she could well be suspected just because of the color of her skin. That’s not fair, he protested. Darn skippy, I told him.
Hate stops with you and your friends, pal. If I do nothing else as a parent but teach you to be good to your fellow humans and not judge them based on the color of their skin, what god they believe in, or who they love, I will have done a good job. Be whatever you want- garbage man or president of the United States, brain surgeon or robot inventor or writer or whatever. Just be good to others.
He looked at the photo. “So who are they?” The concept that athletes so good they earn millions of dollars and are household names likely had to put up with racist bullshit like this as children blew his mind. “It says a lot that they did that, doesn’t it?” he asked. The conversation ebbed away, the thought of someone’s child being killed overwhelming him, the knowledge (It could be S! It could be B! he blurted, naming friends who are not lily white. I reassured him, even as I knew crap like this can happen anywhere) that there are people in this world who would judge- and kill- others based on prejudice making him burrow against me and hold Rhino tight. I stroked his hair, reminded him that he’s safe, and let him retreat to the benign world of blowing up evil space pigs.
If I do nothing else in this career as a mom. Let it be that he never forgets me weeping over a dead 17 year old in Florida.