My son is three, just barely old enough to even say how old he is, but already, I feel compelled to equip him with the tools necessary to survive in life.
Often at my day-job, people want to know why the story of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Dunn story touches African-American lives in the way that it has. And I want to say to them, "because it shows that even in this day and age, black people are not permitted to stand up for themselves". Let's take another look at both trials. With Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman's testimony was that he persued Trayvon Martin when he "thought" he was a local robber. In Zimmerman's case, the thought of someone in his neighborhood, up to no good propelled him to self-investigate. Nevermind an appropriate conversation taking place, or an appropriate call to authorities and a "wait and see" approach happening, George Zimmerman came up to this allegedly threatening black child, with a gun, with the intent on the possibility of said child getting hurt and possibly dying. Anytime you bring a gun into a situation, unless you are shooting in the air, you are going to be aiming it at someone. Is it appropriate to come up to someone you don't know with a gun and expect them to comply to any of your requests? No. Zimmerman's story gives no agency to the rights of Trayvon Martin, who could have possibly thought that he was being followed by a serial killer. I know every time I drive at night and a car behind me follows, I divert my path.
Newsflash: Black people are afraid of the world too. We are afraid of someone following us and we are afraid of suspicious people too.
Now let's look at Jordan Davis. In this most clear example of not having the appropriate permissions to exert authority over your life and your body, Jordan Davis, was supposedly killed for not acquiescing to the needs of a complete stranger. Michael Dunn asked teens at a gas station (a completely public place) to turn down their music. They did, and then they turned it back up (which they had every right to). Michael Dunn, then approached the teens again (which he had no right to) to start an altercation with a gun, which ended up with the teens driving off and Michael Dunn shooting his gun into their fleeing car. Let's look at this again. A FLEEING CAR. The car with the teens was driving away. Where was the fear? When the teens turned on their car after getting gas? After they all piled into the car to drive off? As they were driving off playing louder music? Where?
In both telling of these stories, the right of both teens to exert their authority in the situation gets lost. This isn't merely an adult-to-child lesson in manners. These are men with guns, exerting themselves in situations where teens do not have an advantage. Society is telling the Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis's of the world, in situations like these, you have no rights. This is a scary and chilling proposition for black families to accept.
Those men weren't these boys parents. How in the world do they have a say in anything these boys did? What property was Michael Dunn defending when he shot into Jordan Davis's fleeing car? What authority did George Zimmerman have to follow Trayvon Martin?
This is what complicates Black families ability to school their children in the ways of the world. What would be the proper way to walk home? What would be the proper way to drive off from a conflict? How do we teach our kids to hold agency over themselves, maintain their respect across all platforms and avoid conflict if conflict approaches them and demands to be engaged?
I will never teach my son or daughter to just take whatever someone throws at him. I believe that way of thinking doesn't give them the proper tools to be truly successful at life, to challenge or think critically about their place in society. I wasn't raised that way and I don't believe other people raise their children that way. In this continual process called life, I hope to develop the answers as we go along, with the knowledge that the ever evolving world will progress with us along the way.