Trayvon and George: Moms and Villians

How must she feel now, Trayvon's mother?   Like all mothers, I imagine she poured herself into her son, wanting him to have a satisfying life, to do good, and to make her proud.  She must have imagined his future many times, many ways.  It might still happen automatically now; maybe she has to stop her mind from imagining.   Because how is it possible to lose a child, to really know that there is no future for Trayvon?   Her son was shot dead for being in the wrong territory, for posing a threat to another man who saw himself as a protector, a man who saw a young black man wearing a hoodie, who did not see Trayvon's mother's son. The man who shot him is "not guilty," according to our courts. 

My own daughter, a white child of privilege, has absolutely no way of understanding what men like Trayvon have to deal with, or young women like Malala for that matter.  As a mother feeling for Trayvon's mother, I have been choking all morning, as if I need to swallow, or to speak, but what can I say?  I tried speaking to a man of color on the train, and he advised me to accept it:  "life is not fair," he said.  And he smiled.    

George Zimmerman has some pigment too, and a mother.  He is not the villain in the story.  Perhaps because someone tried to make him out to be more villainous than he was, his actual wrongdoing was obscured.  We don't know how the fight started, whose voice said what, who screamed, who was more afraid.  Given the right circumstances, Trayvon could have been angry and violent.  Given the right circumstances, George could have been angry and violent.   But only one of the two men is dead, the one without a gun, the one with darker skin, the one who did not belong in the privileged community. 

I don't know what to do with all these layers.  I remember taking a social psychology class in which the correct answer to an exam question about why African Americans are different from other immigrants was "a history of violent oppression."   We oppress and take advantage of all the weak in this country, but the worst is experienced by those who inherited the legacy of slavery.   We keep oppression going by pretending that life is fair.  We keep it going by staying blind to the agonizingly puny range of choices available to Trayvon and his peers.  

Meanwhile, my daughter's cohort feels so entitled to the best of everything that the assumption isn't even spoken.  If I speak it, I am made villainous; what is worse than a withholding mother?  Except a controlling mother.  Try making these kids volunteer.  Many schools require volunteer hours, and I see teachers going purple from giving reminders.  

We don't live in the same world.  I want to make a bridge.  I want the Zimmermans to comprehend the Martins.  If I knew what to do I would do it.  Do you know what to do? 

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