Not Guilty: A Mother’s Perspective on Raising a Black Male in America

Not guilty. I have hardly been able to form words, thoughts, or a response to the outcome of the George Zimmerman trial. I cannot say that I am completely surprised, however, I wish I could say that I was. Honestly, for one of the few times in my life, I am at a loss for words. That doesn’t happen often. I wanted to be sure that when my response to this most controversial of issues was rendered that it would be cogent, coherent and considerate.

Not guilty. I am heartbroken by the outcome of this trial. And because of that many of  you have already decided that you know why I am upset. And that is part of my disappointment. As people of privilege we are hasty to pass judgement on people and the predicaments in which they find themselves.  

Not guilty. Some of you may not consider yourselves people of privilege. But let me assure you that all who live in “the land of the free and the home of the brave” are privileged. Our governing documents make sure of it. The First Amendment to our Constitution entitles us to freedom of speech.  No man ever speaks words that didn’t first form as a thought in his mind.  So while you may not have spoken it, you have already decided that I, like those who share in my disappointment, harbor these feelings for the same reasons.

Or you have surmised that you understand my discontentment, as it is juxtaposed from your satisfaction. So to clear it all up allow me to share the reasons for my heart break.

  • This circumstance has highlighted and reiterated that the state of race relations in our beloved America is broken, maybe beyond the point of repair.
  • The ever growing chasm between the haves and have-nots increases at a rapid pace, and while we all have some privilege, those who are more privileged than others seem to have the final say.
  • My son’s name is Trevone. This hits a little too close to home for me. I cannot fathom what it must feel like to have lost a child, let alone in this manner, and my heart aches for the family of Trayvon Martin.

Not guilty. My disappointment is not based in the fact that the outcome of this trial was most likely influenced by the race of the victim versus the offender. Let’s not pretend that the values upon which this country was founded were not rooted in a hierarchy of race. Nor shall we pretend that the descendants of slaves have not been subject to the institutionalized racism created by our founding fathers even today. Now, don’t get me wrong. Everyone in this free country of ours has passed judgment on someone based upon their appearance – White, Black, Hispanic, Asian or otherwise. I have to admit, had I never watched and episode of A&E’s hit show Duck Dynasty, I would not have assumed that any of those men went to college, had pretty wives, prayed to the same God I do or were millionaires. Let’s just keep it real. But that passing of judgement, however wrong or inappropriate, is not racism. And though racism was at the very core of issues in this trial, it is not a party to my disappointment.

Not guilty. My greatest disappointment is that we, as Americans, are so privileged and so desensitized to injustice, that we do not even realize we are privileged and insensitive. I have read a number of posts by Blacks and Whites alike discounting concerns over the racial issues in this trial because Black on Black crime is rampant. And while I agree, the African-American community has a long way to go concerning our disregard for one another, how does that discount my feelings or concerns about this particular killing? I am just as upset by the number of children who are killed at the hand of any other person as I am this one. But the media attention alone made this a precedent setting case for others to come, which means more children have the propensity to die at the hand of an offender who will suffer no punishment from our legal system.

Not guilty. I am disappointed that we as a country are satisfied with injustice as long as it doesn’t impact us personally. How on earth is it ever OK to take some one’s life based upon your feelings of insecurity? “Stand Your Ground” should never have become a law such that George Zimmerman, among others, was able to use it as his defense. Where was the outrage when this occurred? I am disappointed that the passing of judgement can so easily become the practice of prejudice that we as Americans feel the protection of our presumptions is a defensible right. And I am disappointed that six women, all whom have the capacity of motherhood, can draw a conclusion that killing a child, under any circumstance, is an act that can go unpunished.

We are a nation of privilege. And it is this very privilege that brings us to this point in our history; a tipping point where the past is prologue and the very essence of who we are at the core of our being has come into question. I am reminded of the courtroom scene in the movie “A Time to Kill,” where Matthew McConaughey’s character Jake Brigance is delivering his closing argument in defense of Carl Lee Hailey (Samuel L. Jackson). He paints a picture of the brutal rape and beating of the child frame by frame and at the end of his speech invites the jury to imagine that the victim was White. Somehow, that image was relatable enough for the jury to render a “not guilty” verdict. And while that was just a movie, I have to wonder if the outcome would have been different if Trayvon Martin had been seen as a defensible teenager. And I have to question what type of privilege allows one not to see him that way.

8 Replies to “Not Guilty: A Mother’s Perspective on Raising a Black Male in America”

  1. Crazy how this is still relevant. It’s been a rough week, I continued to pray for all our men, sons, cousins, nephews, brothers.

  2. My goodness! This is so relevant right now. We are, indeed, very privileged. Even those of us who share our skin color have a certain level of privilege. We experience things that some people in the world can never dream of. We are very desensitized to violence until it hits US close to home. All I can do is pray that God will heal this land and take the blinders from our eyes, all our eyes. Thank you for sharing this.

  3. Being on the internet today was painful. Your words, based on your family are truly moving. I think of my brother, cousin and my students who are all around the same age. This could happen to them, one of us, another life, discarded. Thank you for your honesty.

  4. Anitra, I wrote a similar blog post last year. I hate that we are still dealing with this foolishness. Prayers for your son and mine.

  5. America the Beautiful. It happened before, it happened then, it’s happening now and will continue to happen. Something’s gotta give. I wish l knew what it would take for us to be seen as people and not as lesser beings :-(.

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