I often compare my sons to Max in Where the Wild Things Are. I used to read that book to them when they were little; my youngest, curled up in my lap in a much too small Spider-Man costume. The book is all about a child’s growth and change as expressed thru his creativity, imagination, and fury. That about sums up teenage boys in my experience.
I did not know Trayvon Martin. Was he spirited and wild? Was he creative introspective and philosophical? Did he engage his parents in discussions about genocide in Africa and homelessness is America? Did he think that he had the solution to _________ if people would just listen? I bet he did. Because my boys do.
I have not kept up with all of the news reports. I have read a few articles; enough to know the basics of what happened. Mostly, however, I have looked at the pictures of Trayvon. I see his beautiful, creamy, sun-kissed skin, his boyish face transitioning to that of a man, his bright eyes open to the possibilities of life. I see my sons.
I can imagine that he was returning from the store completely clueless to the fact that anyone might find him threatening. My baby boy (who is 14 and already 6-4) functions with the same lack of awareness. He is goofy and really silly; still working on full mastery of his motor skills. What’s threatening about that?
I can imagine that he had no idea what to do when ambushed by this total stranger. I wonder how my boys would react. We have taught them in great detail how to respond to the police if ever stopped for (even for no apparent reason): no sudden movements… be extremely polite…explain with clear words when reaching for identification. But how could Trayvon have been prepared for this? What could his parents have said that would have made a difference at that moment?
I remember telling my boys the story about Emmet Till. Their reaction was as if I was speaking about ancient history that has no relation to life now. Trayvon’s murder has stunned them. I do not feel vindicated. I feel sad. I wish I was wrong and they were right.
My husband and I have tried to balance two things with while raising our boys during the teenage years: certain realities of being a black male in America and, as President Obama so eloquently coined it, the audacity of hope.
Society -who ever in hell they are- can think, say, feel what it likes. Our boys are entitled to grow up just like their white counterparts: edgy and fearless… challenging the status quo. Protecting that right is no small feat.
Trayvon’s life was cut short because someone misinterpreted who he was. We have no idea what Trayvon might have become.
My faith in God tells me that there is a much bigger purpose in this tragedy. Perhaps Trayvon Martin (like Emmett Till before him) was sent to deliver a message that only the innocence of a child can convey. Hopefully, we are all receiving it.
I hope that all parents see their sons in Trayvon and are praying with this family as they heal from unimaginable pain.
I hope that those who look at my sons and are threatened for whatever reasons begin to remember their own youth… their own wildness… their own audacity.