It is time for the state of Florida to recognize that its residents are hiding behind the ‘Stand Your Ground’ law. ‘Stand Your Ground’ has become the “go to” excuse to shoot first and then say–“I felt threatened.” In the Trayvon Martin case, George Zimmerman felt “threatened” by Trayvon because he reacted to Zimmerman’s “stalking” of him…and he stalked him because he fit the “profile”. The profile being a young black male walking along and minding his business. There are people who would and have said that Zimmerman is innocent until proven guilty but those are people who haven’t had to worry about their boys simply walking to the corner market and coming home in a body bag.
The stories are endless of young black men being gunned down for simply being young black men and when I wrote the post The Responsibility Of Raising A Black Boy, I expressed my concern as a pregnant mother finding out the child I was carrying was a baby boy. Knowing how the world viewed him and the lengths to which they would go to discourage his success, including murder, sent my already stressed mind reeling.
The day I went to the hospital to find out the sex of my son, we were sitting in the waiting room and on the television, they were discussing the very controversial comments conservative William J. Bennett made on his talk show September 29th, 2005 in which he stated–“if you wanted to reduce crime, you could — if that were your sole purpose — you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down.” Bennett quickly added that such an idea would be “an impossible, ridiculous and morally reprehensible thing to do.” But, he said, “your crime rate would go down.”
We both sat there and shook our heads, incredulous at what we’d heard and as the host of the show debated with her guests about how insensitive and wrong his comments were, my name was called to go find out what I was having. As we stood up, I looked at my boyfriend and said–“They are trying to exterminate y’all!”
William Bennett’s comments are nothing knew to the black community and neither is having to deal with the possibility of losing our young men to violence for no other reason than the color of their skin.
The recent use of the ‘Stand Your Ground Law‘ hasn’t been about standing your ground so much as it has been about using it as a smokescreen to hide the deep seeded hatred that has been bred for generations in this country. We are supposed to believe that seventeen year old young men who were buying junk food and listening to elevated music (things all seventeen year olds do) and until harassed, were unaware these men even existed, were somehow so dangerous that both Zimmerman and Dunn even saw phantom weapons which, they claim, is why they made the decision to shoot.
We tell our children to stay away from drugs and tell them to steer clear of the wrong crowd and now we have to tell them that even after doing ALL of that, there is still a chance that you will be shot and/or killed… so as a parent, what am I supposed to tell my son to help him avoid that? Would you know what to tell yours?
Raising children is already a hard enough job without having to worry and be constantly reminded that at any moment your child’s life could be taken based on a “feeling”. Enacting laws that allow for a person to act before they think has already been proven detrimental and two families are now dealing with having lost their sons to senseless, unprovoked violence with this law being used as the excuse for their deaths.
Gone are the days when we had to sit back and accept our children being harmed and with the recent campaign to end this controversial law gaining momentum, there is hope that the ineffectiveness of this law will be exposed and ultimately repealed. If nothing else, we owe it to the memory of those who died to have it taken off the books.
When I was pregnant with my son, his father asked me if I was nervous about anything? I think he questioned me because he was nervous (this was his first child and my second) but what I hadn’t verbalized to anyone, until then, was how scared I was to take on the responsibility of raising a black boy. Not because I was nervous about having a son, again, this was my second child, but because I had a duty to see him through his childhood…alive! Knowing what “our little boys” face at every stage of life (think Trayvon Martin) and having seen how my mother and father had to fight for my brother, I knew what I was up against and add to that the stress of just being pregnant…inwardly, I was a mess.
I remember, very vividly, how my brother was treated by adults who were supposed to be in charge of helping mold him into a responsible young man and instead tried to tear him down. There were teachers, church members, family friends, and neighbors who all had a hand in operation “Try to ruin a little black boy”. Thankfully, my brother didn’t listen to what adults were saying or care how they felt about him. God gave him the unique ability to tune out nay sayers (this is the nice way of saying, “He didn’t give a BLEEP!) and gave him a set of parents who were supportive, willing and able to fight for him at every turn. It worked and he went on to be very successful.
So for me, having seen how these adults systematically tried to break his spirits, the reality that the torch was being passed to me and I was now the one in charge of training and fighting the known and unknown forces that await every little black boy, was somewhat daunting. As my son grew, any fears I had (which were mostly due to my being pregnant) disappeared and it was time to get into mommy mode but in the back of my mind, the thought of what he was soon to face was always there.
My son was watched by my mother from birth and the best thing that came from her watching him, aside from the obvious, was that she was a retired Principal and when he turned two years old, they started to go to “Granny School” for fun. Soon, he was learning to read words and his numbers…it was brilliant! She made learning a game as opposed to something he had to do so when he wanted to stop, they stopped and when he wanted to learn, they learned. This went on until he turned four and then it was time for him to move on to a more difficult, structured program.
My daughter had been going to Kumon for math support and since they were there waiting for her, my mother looked into enrolling him into their reading program. He was excited to be receiving a “blue bag and homework like sissy” so he dived right in and really began to learn how to read. By the time he was five and ready for Kindergarten, I began to realize that if I put him in the public school system near us, we may run into the problem of them telling us they were “unable to teach him” because he was advanced and already reading and writing at a 1st grade level. Instead of teaching the other children to the level of the most advanced child, they will hold the most advanced child back so that the others can catch up. This is a trick reserved for “children of color” and one that was tried on me when I was in 3rd grade. Not mine!
So now the task of finding a school with a program that would push my son as opposed to hold him back began and after talking to some customers that worked at a private school near my job, I found one that did everything I wanted and expected from a school. They continued where my mother left off and they complemented what he was already doing in Kumon. Success!
As we revise the blueprint created by my parents and take control of his education, we’ve ensured that any adult who attempts to interfere with his learning process is unsuccessful and we’ve eliminated one major obstacle my son was sure to face… giving ourselves a little breathing room to prepare for the next obstacle, which is inevitably coming his way.
I had a customer who I used to call “The Nazi“. She was a little German woman who had fled Germany and Hitler when she was fourteen years old. She was always very nice to me and my staff and without fail, brought everyone a gift for every major holiday. We looked forward to seeing her and when I was transfered to a different office, she was one of the customers I missed the most. A year and a half after I had moved offices, I was transfered back to my original office and when I saw my Nazi walk in for the first time, I got up and gave her a big hug. We talked about how much we missed each other and started “catching up”.
I do need to say that I didn’t start calling her “The Nazi” until the day I returned to the office. She was one of those customer’s who loved to talk and could easily keep you for 30 minutes. There were times when her husband would have to come looking for her because, as I found out later, she didn’t drive and he was always outside waiting for her. On this particular day, she was so excited to catch me up on what had happened with her in the year and a half I’d been gone, stories were just pouring out of her.
She and her husband had recently moved to a senior community and she was telling me how she felt that she had never fully fit in and felt comfortable in the predominantly white, bedroom community she had just left. Where she had felt most comfortable was her little cottage home in Oakland, Ca. I love to hear life stories about where people have been, so it was interesting to hear her talk about Oakland. The Oakland she described was pre-Huey Newton, Black Panther‘s, Civil Rights Movement and White so it was interesting to hear how neighborhoods that I know as being predominantly Black or Hispanic, once were.
She went on and on about her little home and the life they had there and then the music stopped because the next sentence is what earned her the “Nazi” title. As we strolled down memory lane, she forgot what year she was in and who she was telling her story to so when she started to get upset because she “had to move from her home” the next statement took me back to Dave Chappelle‘s 2000 comedy show, Killin‘ Them Softly, where he asked, “Have you ever had something happen that was so racist, that you didn’t even get mad? You just said…damn, that was racist!” Yes. Yes I have.
As we walked down the once white neighborhoods of Oakland, Ca., she hit me with, “Kirsten, you know who I blame for the way Oakland is? The blacks…they ruined Oakland!” WTBLEEP? I sat up straight and said, ” Actually, Black people didn’t ruin Oakland” and she cut me off and said, “They did! They did ruin Oakland.” I had just been hit with some unexpected racism! I had a choice, either I flash on her and act a damn fool at work (I wanted to so badly), or I figure out how to get through this…I chose to keep my job because as my momma always said, “You can’t argue with crazy” so I just glazed over and went to a different place…one that didn’t include my Nazi.
There were several thoughts running through my head: “O.k…remember you’re at work. This old woman is crazy! I’m sorry…am I not black? Who does this? Ooh I wish I could hop this counter!” When she completed her rant about how “The Blacks ruined Oakland”, I had to laugh because she came too and realized what she had just done and her face changed and she smiled nervously! She was so nervous that she couldn’t get out of there fast enough!
It’s funny how people allow themselves to get comfortable with someone who they don’t have a close relationship with to the point where they forget to self-sensor. Just because you have known someone for a length of time does not make them your friend and in my case, we had more than the counter separating us. Needless to say, the Nazi knew that she had gone to far and from then on, she didn’t spend a whole lot of time hanging out at my counter…if only she’d thought of that before she inserted foot in mouth!