Man, I’m just glad I had a mom who gave me the realness from a young age. I can remember thinking she was so stuck in the past for telling me that I couldn’t do or say or wear certain things, that I could not stay out as late as my white friends could, that I could not “experiment” with any of the things my white friends did. I struggled so much with her for trying to impress upon me the fact that I was different. Because I’m not supposed to be. I lived in a nice house, spoke more than one language, was well educated and well socialized and I did not understand why I needed to constantly act in a manner designed to disarm another person’s suspicions about me.
What I want you to know about being a young black man in America.
But wow, I get it now. Every black kid has that moment where he has to decide to accept the armor that his parents present to him to get through life as an American black male, or walk around naked. And the crazy part is, it’s probably something most people outside of the black community never see. I can remember my mom talking to me over and over and over again about what to do and who to call if I was ever picked up by a police officer. She made sure I knew that I needed to declare that I was exercising my Miranda rights rather simply evoke them without notice. If you were in JNJ your mom probably made you take a WHOLE FREAKING CLASS on how to deal with police officers and other people who were perceived to be threatening.
And I say that to say that as scary as people think black males are, black males are conditioned to be ten times more afraid of everyone else. We’re conditioned to be afraid of going to certain parts of the country, afraid of people with certain political views, afraid of police officers, and sometimes even afraid of other black and Latino males. The most sickening thing about this whole trial has been the deliberate campaign to rob Trayvon of his right to be afraid. I know I would have been.
I owe my mom the deepest of apologies for all of the times that I accused her of overacting or trying to force-feed me a vision of a society long since passed….. One so different from the one that exists today.