What do we tell our youth about their safety?
I'm sitting across from this family on the train. A young, probably 30something couple with their young son. He's clearly a young, sweet, well-mannered kid. He's wearing a baseball cap and athletic wear-the same things that Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin wore. I couldn't help but to feel a pang of deep hurt watching him sit between his parents. How are they beginning to train him to take care of himself? If the people/systems set in place to protect him are continuously showing themselves to not care about his safety, how will that affect his psyche and attitude about the value of his own life? What do you say as a parent to make him feel safe when the reality is, he isn't? I think of my nephew. What are my brother and my mother telling him? It's such a sorrowful, real thing. We have to train our children to code switch to the next level now. It's beyond having a "phone voice" or being taught-as I was-how to deal with police/authority figures. We have to train our children to appear to be different. Dress a certain way and speak a certain way , or you'll be viewed as a threat and very likely killed for walking down the street. Reality. Not exaggeration.
I'm outraged and I don't know where to direct it. Why are the lives of my people not worth anything? Why do our children have to grow up looking over their shoulders at every corner, distrusting those put in place to protect them? Why do our children have to grow up being told on a deep, intrinsic level that who they are is not ok?
This affects us all. It's not ok to rest behind apathy or privilege. We all need to be thinking about the messages we're sending to the next generation by our silence/tolerance/outrage or however we decide to proceed. Staying silent is the equivalent of telling a black child that it's not ok to be who they are in America. That's the real. Silence supports a system that is not designed to protect all.
What's the next step? I'm not sure. I think it has to start with us all being disgusted and outraged. It starts by checking in whatever privilege we can hide behind to have honest, courageous, and sometimes scary conversations about why this shit is happening. It has to go beyond facebook. It has to permeate into our living rooms...into our chats over lattes...into our consciousness overall. The cost of staying apathetic is way too high now.