As a parent of an African American teenager, the Trayvon Martin story makes me ill with sadness. As someone who has made a career working with young people, it makes me fearful of what our young people think of us adults.
If you have not heard the story of Travyon Martin, look it up.
Most of you have heard about it via various outlets at this point. As I read the details of the story that were released, I can't help but think of the instructions I give my own child as he walks through the neighborhood.
Don't talk to strangers. If you notice someone following you, run. If you find yourself in the position where you feel threatened enough by the stranger to fight, then by all means do so. Do what you need to extricate yourself from the danger.
Trayvon Martin followed these same steps, and as he wrestled his pursuer was shot and killed. His attacker claimed self defense, and has yet to be arrested. I have been puzzled as to how to frame this situation with my sons -- African American boys, who have a fondness for hooded sweatshirts -- as do many of their White friends.
Do I change their dress code? Do I escort them as they walk through the neighborhood? Do I tell them to stop and chat with anyone who asks where they are going and what their business is? My answer to all of these is "no."
How do I explain to them, that as African American males, they can never assume that they are above suspicion -- regardless of where they are, and when they are doing absolutely nothing.
Consider the state of teens throughout the country, and think of the state fair incident last summer, the school shootings, and the bullying. Our young people are telling us something. The world we are giving them is unacceptable, and they know it.
When one of their own gets killed essentially for walking while dressed like most of the teenagers in the country dressed, with no repurcussions, how do we tell them that the world has any sense of order? Life isn't fair. I tell my sons this as a first tenet of manhood. I never imagine that the degree unfairness could be fatal.