Last week’s injustice to the life and legacy of Trayvon Martin takes its infamous place in the annals of United States history, along with the 1857 Dred Scott Supreme Court ruling, the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson court ruling, the 1955 Emmett Till murder, and the 1963 fire hosing and church bombing of Black children in Birmingham, Ala., and the 2010 murder Oscar Grant while in handcuffs. Each was a singular moment in American history, yet reminded the world of the unequal justice and “open season” on Black people in America. As was the question of Black families then, today, following the targeting of Trayvon, Black parents sense another “open season” and are asking: What should we tell our sons?
In an ideal America parents—of any color—should only tell their sons to be honest, hard working, faithful, fair, and respectful, among other virtues. Of course, the America in which we live, filled with the false notion of White supremacy, is a tale of two turnouts for boys whose names begin with the letter T. Imagine one is named Trevor. One is named Trayvon.
Trevor is White, blonde-haired and blue-eyed. Trayvon is Black, brown-haired and brown-eyed. Both Trevor and Trayvon are typical teenage boys who are testing their proverbial “wings” in life. Both seemingly have much life in front of them. Both Trevor and Trayvon’s parents love them dearly. Yet, when each exits their respective homes, the feelings of their parents are virtually in two different worlds. The White parents have no fear their son will be racially profiled. The Black parents knows that racial profiling of their son is a real and, perhaps, regular possibility. We know how Trayvon’s life so violently ended.
Now that we have analyzed and been agitated to action by the acquittal of Trayvon’s murderer, Black parents should tell their sons 0 things:
- Dress like you wish to be treated. Police and “want-to-be” cops profile certain dress such as no belts, sagging pants, white tank tops etc. Although wearing a hoodie in the rain, as Trayvon did, should be free from profiling.
- Take driver’s license photo with blazer, white shirt and tie (at least white shirt and tie), unless you choose cultural attire.
- Give your name and ask their name, if asked for identification.
- Be polite, without being pious; cordial, without being cowardly.
- Pull over in nearest lighted area.
- Turn on interior lights in car.
- Place hands on top of steering wheel.
- Announce intention to reach for wallet or identification.
- Call Police immediately after traffic stop and identify location to ensure that there was an official stop recorded by Police dispatch.
- Write detailed account of stop.
Moreover, we must teach our sons competence, courage, commitment, and compassion. We must teach them Black history. We must teach them past legal gains can be reversed if each generation does not remain vigilant. We must teach them that American economic downturns most often lead to a rise in racism against Black people. We must teach them not to feel entitled to anything. We must teach them that an empty intellect makes the most noise. We must teach them that ideas are intellectual currency. We must teach that comfort breeds complacency. We must teach them that injustice, like Italian Dressing, must be shaken. We must teach them that the garden of the mind must be cultivated for weeds. We must teach them that a liar is worst than a thief. We must teach them a good reputation is worth riches. We must teach them their aspirations should exceed their grasp. Lastly, we must teach our sons that we are the composite of all whose memory we cherish.
Trayvon’s tragedy is marbled in our memory, and should inspire all conscientious Americans to sharpen our swords against injustice, wherever it may be, and to whomever it may be targeted.
Gary L. Flowers is executive director and CEO of the Black Leadership Forum, Inc. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.