I just read an article on msnb.com by Jesse Washington that made me want to cry. In it Mr. Washington describes how he had to explain to his twelve-year-old son that he may soon find that people are afraid of him just because he is a black male. He then had to go on to give his son, not yet even a teenager, advice on how to stay safe in a world where people will be suspicious of him solely because of the color of his skin.
My first reaction was how could we possibly still have to do this? Why aren’t we better than this by now. That reaction still stands.
I realized though that there is another reaction standing right next to it. Sadly, that reaction is familiar anger. I’ve heard nearly the same warnings. Oh, as a middle-aged white woman, there is hardly anyone afraid of me. Even as a teenager, though I’m sure I thought I was pretty damned badass, no one was really that frightened of me. I was, however, aware of the corresponding “woman’s code”. All girls know the drill by the time they are thirteen. By virtual solely of our sex we are at risk. We know all the things to do and not to do. We know to buddy up. We know to check back seats of cars, avoid stairwells, not to walk alone at night, to carry our keys between our fingers, to kick at knees, to scream like hell. We are told to avoid behavior and clothing that does nothing to keep attacks from happening but lessens the blame coming at us when it does. Ironically, a hoodie would be considered appropriate clothing for a young woman.
I’m very glad that people of all walks of life are standing firm against what happened to Trayvon Martin. I hope and pray to God that it opens eyes all over this country. I challenge everyone who reads this blog to chastise in any way you can any person or institution that ever has the gall to blame any person for being attacked. Make it very clear that a person’s race, sex, gender identification, clothing, or religion are not excuses for suspicion and violence. Let there be no doubt that vigilante justice is an oxymoron. Let’s honor the memory of Trayvon Martin, and the way too many men and women, girls and boys that have gone before him, by making our world a place where anyone can go to the store and come home safe and sound.