Monday, March 26, 2012

A Response to Mr. Jealous and Mr. Washington

The following two articles caught my eye.

Trayvon Martin killing spurs rights leaders to action
"I stand here as a son, father, uncle who is tired of being scared for our boys," said Benjamin Jealous, national president of the NAACP. "I'm tired of telling our young men how they can't dress, where they can't go and how they can't behave." 

Trayvon Martin, my son, and the Black Male Code by Jesse Washington
Always pay close attention to your surroundings, son, especially if you are in an affluent neighborhood where black folks are few. Understand that even though you are not a criminal, some people might assume you are, especially if you are wearing certain clothes.
Never argue with police, but protect your dignity and take pride in humility. When confronted by someone with a badge or a gun, do not flee, fight, or put your hands anywhere other than up.
. . . Like Dotson, Stephney mentioned an ultra-awareness — "a racial Spidey sense, a tingling" — that his sons should heed when stereotyping might place them in danger. 

First, I'm not black.

That doesn't mean I can't relate.  I've lived a lot of places, urban, rural, fully integrated, mostly white, and some in between.

I've been to stores where security followed me around, thinking I'm a shoplifter.  Because I was poorly dressed and had on a baggy coat and a large totebag that things could be stuffed into.  I didn't look like I "belonged".

My children and my husband have all been pulled over by LEO on the roads. And they've been told to put their hands on the steering wheel where the officer can see them.   One was because he was driving a crappy car in an affluent neighborhood, slowing down several times to look for a specific address.  He didn't look like he "belonged".  The others were for bad driving, some in daylight, some at night.  And the one who got rude with the policeman got a pat-down and a ticket with the highest fine, and hauled downtown.  That one was the daughter.

I'm not black, but I can relate.

Know this:   People are going to judge you based on how you look, how you dress, how you act.

I spent an earlier part of my life moving around a lot.  When you are somewhere new, you are the outsider.  You don't "belong".  You have to be on your best behavior until the people  around you know that you are trustworthy.  And it is up to you to show them that you are.  Every time we moved to a new town, the process started over again.

And, Mr. Jealous, I have always considered it my job to tell my young men and ladies what clothes they wear out in public, where they can and cannot go, and how they can and cannot behave. It's called being a parent.

And Mr. Washington, I have always considered it my job to advise my children to be aware of their surroundings and to pay attention to that "sense" of danger.

And that so-called "racial Spidey-sense" ain't racial.  It comes in all colors.

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