Childrearing

I’m Terrified Of Raising My Black Son In This World

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I’ve been thinking about my father’s “silent” racism since last weekend when I heard the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial. The interview with the woman who sat on the jury put me in a dark, quiet place where I haven’t been since that day I left my father’s empty store – red-faced and horrified.

I think all of us thought race did not play a role. We never had that discussion. – Juror B37

The absence of racial diversity in your surroundings doesn’t justify blatantly ignoring that racism exists.  If your life experience is so homogeneous that it doesn’t even occur to you that a young, unarmed black man who is shot dead by a white man would ignite a conversation about race, then you live in a bubble. I know, because I spent my young life there – some naive place that allowed me to pretend racism didn’t exist, simply because I hadn’t witnessed it firsthand.

How many times have you heard someone mention the “race card” when talking about the Zimmerman trial? It’s almost as if some believe that arrogantly denying racism exists makes a person less racist. Denying that we have a lot of racial inequities in this country doesn’t make you transcend them; it makes you entitled and naive. Race isn’t even an issue to me! Exactly. That’s the problem. You can’t live in that kind of oblivion and not be responsible for what happens outside of it.

My husband and I moved from Brooklyn, New York to Orlando, Florida a couple of months ago — a state now synonymous with Trayvon Martin‘s death. When the kids finally get down to sleep at night, he likes to go on long bike rides. Every time he leaves the house alone at night, I’m uneasy. I never tell him that because how do you tell an almost 40-year-old man that you fear for his safety every time he leaves the house? It’s ridiculous. I just keep my mouth shut, and hope no one messes with him.

We haven’t had any problems lately, but there were a few incidents in the past when we came here to visit. Once a cop actually drew his gun on him when he was playing guitar in the park because a neighbor thought he looked “suspicious.” On Thanksgiving a couple of years ago, he went for a walk and got a police escort home. Another neighbor thought something just didn’t look quite right about a grown black man going out to walk off a huge meal on a nice night.

Every time something like this happens, I try to comfort him but I can’t. I don’t know how that feels. I don’t know what it’s like to have the whole damn world assume that you’re guilty of something constantly. The same Korean shop owner that would greet me with a smile when I got my coffee in the morning would follow my husband around the shop when he went down to pick up milk for our child. I don’t know how that feels. How do I even begin to speak on it? I just look at my husband and shake my head. I don’t know what to say.

I just can’t ignore the crippling shame I feel any longer. I could hardly look my own husband in the face after that verdict the other night. So how do I face my child?

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