I was checking out Facebook this morning and I noticed a picture of a young mother and son gazing out into the ocean, arm-in-arm. The caption read, "What do we tell our sons?"
In this pugnaciously rushing wake of the Trayvon Martin murder, and yes, I said murder, I have been moved to the copious sharing of posts by others, as well as offering my own commentary in no less than six or seven status updates over the course of this weekend, after the verdict was read. But one thing just keeps sticking to me -- and that is...
...just what do we tell our sons?
And for that matter, what do we tell our daughters, nephews, nieces, cousins? Someone posted a response: "we must make sure our sons appear clean cut, educated..."
I am compelled to write that our appearance is what is at issue, however, it doesn't matter whether we have all of the educational accoutrements available, and it doesn't matter whether we cut our hair, pull up our pants and take off the hoodies for suits and ties, we will be treated in the manner to which these intrinsically racist systems have been accustomed to treating us since the slavery trade began.
Racism for many conjures up visions of the days of Jim Crow, of the mid-20th century civil rights movement; a time when racism was overtly practiced to a level so detrimental to the well-being of the nation.
I am not trying to give a history lesson here; suffice it to say that the government decided, albeit having been met violently and with great pain and death to my black brethren, to force white people to accept the notion of "integrating" us into the "mainstream."
But at the same time that civil rights and integration was being made law, images of black men, boys, women and girls were systematically being presented as "lazy," of "ill-repute," "overly sexually charged," and worthless in the economy, save for taking care of white babies, being unskilled laborers, maids and butlers. Racism's perception of us was an unrealistic montage of images of our appearance and we became, essentially, "the problem."
Meanwhile, black people were still being educated as they were during slavery, and Jim Crow, and after Jim Crow were still becoming teachers, preachers, and business owners.As it did back then, and as it does today, what absolutely "floors" me is the notion of African American people as inherently violent people to be feared, and how, today, African Americans can be considered "Racists," because we show our support to Trayvon Martin's family and because we despair over "what we tell our sons," now that they've seen an example of the American "justice system." The idea that an African American can be racist is an oxymoron, akin to "cruel kindness."
What is equally amazing to me is that many white people don't really know what racism in America really "means," while thinking they know "what it is." Many of my friends think that racism is an act, whether verbally or physically, against a black person, and strikingly unbelievable in some cases, the reverse. While I can understand that for years and years there has been a consistent "going back and forth" with regard to the anger and hatred spewed forth by both white and black America about each other, this is not racism.
This is BIGOTRY.
And there is a huge difference between them. I'll talk about the differences in my next post.
...meanwhile, I still am wondering what we can tell our sons...
Photo courtesy of Root.com