We all know the Trayvon Martin / George Zimmerman story. For those of you who have been living under a rock, you’ll find it here http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/03/what-happened-trayvon-martin-explained. His killer, George Zimmerman, has since been found not guilty by the Florida Supreme Court, on the grounds that he acted in self-defence.
Many commentators have suggested that Zimmerman’s actions were inherently racist – he targeted a black youth, dressed in a hoodie, he stalked him, he confronted him, and he shot him. Some have said that the extent of Zimmerman’s injuries proves that his version, that he acted to defend himself against an aggressor, was true. Some have said that the fact that Zimmerman is himself Hispanic somehow means that he cannot have been racist. Because, of course, you’re only a racist if you are white, or black?
Whatever! None of that is what this post is about. This post is about how I’ve realised that our fears for our children are still seperated along racial lines. This was brought home to me by two women, of different races, following the trial. Gillian Schutte spoke of her fear for her son in an excellent piece in Thoughtleader : http://www.thoughtleader.co.za/gillianschutte/2013/07/15/trayvon-martin-fear-wears-a-black-mans-face/ and, on Facebook, Guerilla Feminism shared a quote by Audre Lord’s “Age, Race, Class, and Sex: Women Redefining Difference” :
“Some problems we share as women, some we do not. You [white women] fear your children will grow up to join the patriarchy and testify against you; we fear our children will be dragged from a car and shot down in the street, and you will turn your backs on the reasons they are dying.”
These are important realities to remember, in raising our children within a multicultural society. They’re realities we will be confronted with as our children meet, befriend, socialise with, and, hopefully, form lasting relationships with, people of different races and cultures. Part of raising children is engaging with their friends’ parents, and acknowledging that the realities, for them, of raising their own children are not our own realities (and the responsibility that places on us).
How do I, as mother of a white girl, respond to the fears of the parents of a black boy? How do I avoid falling into the racist pitfalls which society throws into my path. I have my own fears, as parent to a daughter, and would love to say that these fears are not coloured by the media, or society, or my own Apartheid-era upbringing, but that would be a lie. I try to put aside the irrational thoughts and feelings, but cannot deny them, because to deny them is to give them life.
That is what Trayvon’s death has brought home to me. That, there but for my own desire to be different, my desire NOT to be George Zimmerman, go I. I will not perpetuate the stereotype. I will not fear the boy in the hoodie, will not, in trying to shelter my child from the dangers posed by society, teach her to do so. I will welcome all of the Trayvons she encounters into her life, and into our home.
I will keep reminding myself that the opposite of love is not hate, it is fear. I will keep on loving.