Monday, July 15, 2013

My Son is George Zimmerman

Act #196: Challenge what you are teaching your children about heroism, vigilantism, race, and privilege.

I have a five-year old son.  Like George, he has big brown eyes and olive skin tone.  He too, was born with one foot in the door of white privilege, and the other only a generation away from being classified as an immigrant.  Like George, my son has a mother who is a minority, and a father who is white.  

Like George, my son speaks a non-English language and is growing up in a mixed, multi-racial household, alongside his maternal grandparents.   Like George, one of his best friends at school is half-black.  Like George, my son is growing up in a comfortable suburban neighborhood with working parents who sometimes take him to homeless shelters to hand out meals to those who are less fortunate.

Like George, my son looks up to vigilantes like Batman and Luke Skywalker, and is told everyday by his parents that he can single-handedly save the world, if he someday chooses to do so.  Like George, he too will soon have the choice to take a few classes and get a concealed weapons permit.

Much like George's mother (probably), I'm terrified that despite the values I espouse to him, despite the fact that we are surrounded by and close to people who are all shades of black and brown, despite the fact that we know first-hand what it feels like to be judged by the color of our skin, I am still somehow doing something terribly wrong, making some grave mistake.

Like George, my son will probably grow up riding the coattails of his privileged background.  He will grow up believing that he has the right to take justice in his own hands, and he will grow up with the God-given, all-American power to purchase and carry a weapon intended to kill.  Like George, my son will grow up in a world where movies and news stories will teach him to devalue, distrust, and fear black males.  Like George, he may even start to believe it.

All this time, I feared my son was Trayvon Martin, when in reality, I should have been terrified all along, that he might grow up to become George Zimmerman. 

George Zimmerman,undated photo

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