In the weird pre-morning where my mind is awake and my body stays immobile, I flash images of Trayvon Martin—the latest victim of racist vigilantism that has grown in this country since our government’s aggression has escalated in the last two decades. Unless you are confused—these are related behaviors.
Trayvon Martin isn’t the first innocent boy murdered in this hyper-fundamentalist atmosphere where the Mutaween are not the official guardians of state or religious institution, but the citizens of our country. “Volunteers” who are armed, who are not trained, who are not tested for their balance, sanity, sense of justice, awareness of law, or their blanket bigotry. They are at our borders, on our streets, and sometimes they are BART officers in an Oakland station on New Year’s Eve.
The images of Trayvon are even a notch more disturbing than the blanket shooting of Oscar Grant—he reminds us of boyhood—of Skittles and bottled drinks, talking to girls on the phone, and being afraid of strangers, particularly large men almost two times his size. He was on his own turf; he was out getting a treat.
When I listened to Tayari Jones on NPR The Lingering Memories of Dead Boys, http://www.npr.org/2012/03/20/149003647/trayvon-martin-the-lingering-memories-of-dead-boys, the significance became more personal. Not because I was a Black girl who played, teased, fought with or dreamed about Black boys. Because I am married to the grandfather of four boys, African American. Two of them visited on Sunday, bringing their parents, Anthony Jr, and Silvina and their brand new baby sister, Danay, four days old, along for the visit. King, 3, and Nazier, 5, sat on the puppy bed playing Kung Fu Panda on the X box. They drank juice and ate Goldfish. I twirled King around by holding one hand and one foot and he said, “again!” I didn’t worry about the snacks or the hoodies I bought them as gifts the week before.
How does a family prepare their children for racism? As VONA writer Adam Smyer said, Growing up, I never ran, e.g., to catch a bus, because at that time and place (NYC in the '70s and '80s) it was not unusual for black kids to be attacked by cops and vigilantes for running, and that was just the way it was..
What rules did George Zimmerman have to grow up with? What was he advised not to wear as a youth or he’d get in trouble? Not to run or hang out with his friends? My husband, Anthony (Sr.) often repeats, as many of the brothers do, “As a black man, I can’t be too loud….or dress too…or…..” He has passed this awareness to his son and now Nazier and King, Martay and Javier will learn or discover those rules too—hopefully before they encounter the Mutaween.
Wars have their young martyrs. I think of “Rami” Mohamed Al Durrah who was gunned down with his father, as they were taking cover in the Gaza Strip on September 30, 2000. They boy was twelve years old, and while they IDF was shooting at them, he reassured his father that the ambulance will save them. They were murdered in their hiding place.
The incident was shocking and the world view, by and large, declared Jamal and Mohammed innocent victims of the Gaza invasion. But there is a war there—an occupation.
What is the war here? Has it been declared? Are there sides? Where does the authority lie? What are we battling? Who are the demons and who is responsible for exacerbating them? Is it time to form counter militias and hold secret meetings?
It daunts me that a protestor can be arrested at an Occupy protest, but not a man, who by his own admission, killed a human being. I can’t follow the protocol of this war—a (also African American) mother is sentenced to prison time for sending her son to a school outside of her district http://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2012/02/23/Mom-gets-5-years-for-stealing-education/UPI-96261330043930/. Her son has to stay in the zone, don’t leave the zone.
Please, I need a playbook. So do our children.
Of all the things I know, what I don’t know is how to handle this, both as a way of influencing the grandkids and as a way of having an emotional keel that isn’t imbalanced. The waves are cresting over my sense of reason and something inside is drowning.
Short of clutching the young ones closer, we have to let them live their lives and many must do it in enemy territory.
If all children were being threatened, something dramatic would be done-Amber’s law, PSA’s, educational moments, comic books with messages, milk carton adverts, afterschool movies, celebrity messages, inoculations and skits with giant puppets. We would keep them away from cigarettes, strangers, drugs, alcohol, high fructose corn syrup and infectious diseases. Dr. Phil would have advice; billboards would give directions in several languages depending on the neighborhood.
None of this is happening. Because it’s not all children. How do you tell a child that he doesn’t matter in the eyes of the nation? That he could be Trayvon or Emmett or Oscar or even little Barry Obama walking around in his neighborhood. We need to take notice of every single one because with each one lost, everything does change. For everyone.
Causes Elmaz Abinader Supports