By Roscoe Mapps
Mar. 23, 2012
It may be too early to write this, but I think 26 days is already too late. My heart is broken. An American boy with a pack of Skittles and a bottle of tea chatted with his girlfriend while walking back to his dad’s house. Approached by a stranger, he put his head down, kept to himself and sped-up his pace. But really this 17 year old boy had no chance the moment he left the convenience store. He had no chance the moment he left his dad’s house. In fact he had no chance that morning when he woke up. He was shot in the chest and left on the hard cold ground for his lifeless body to surrender to a drug and alcohol test. His killer was excused and protected by a law. Moms, Dads imagine that was your son.
Now here’s the thing, my mom told me about Trayvon Martin way before 25 days ago. In fact, the Trayvon Martin speech started back in the 80s and 90s when I was a kid. I wasn’t the only one hearing it. If you happened to be born a black male in the United States you too heard the story of Trayvon Martin every day before you left the house. It goes something like this:
“You cannot walk alone at night in any neighborhood, including your own. You cannot walk through alleys at any time of day, even if it’s your own neighborhood, and even if you’re with your friends. Do not directly look strangers in the eye when walking by them. Always walk where there are lots of people. Always drive on main roads. Always make sure someone in your family knows where you are going. No matter what you think or who you think you can trust, you cannot do what other people do and you certainly cannot do what white people do. You cannot necessarily go where they go. You can’t get away with the same jokes or fun casual pranks no matter how innocent it may seem. You can’t walk where they walk. You have to always be aware of how others might interpret what you do or say. They may be strangers, they may be people you know, they may be friends, teachers, or police officers but you can never assume that people know you’re a good kid with good grades. So if a cop pulls you over and asks you odd questions, you say nothing except: ‘my mother told me to ask you to call her. Please call my parents.’ You must always be alert and aware of who is around you. Why? Because you are a black man. I know you are just a kid, but the world sees you as a man. Despite what others may say or what you may think, I’m telling you there are a lot of people in the world who just don’t like that you are a black male… and some of those people may even be people you really like. You can never really know. I love you more than anyone, I would do anything for you, I would die for you and you need to listen to me. I know you’re just a kid and I know it’s not fair, but that’s how it is and I want you to be safe.”
Trayvon Martin’s death was the exact scenario my mom envisioned every time she gave me that speech. It was the same scenario her parents told her, and it’s the same speech we tell my cousin who is about Trayvon’s age. It was Travyon Martin’s story. Please think about this the next time you feel an African American person is overreacting to a situation involving race. Imagine having to live at THAT level of intensity and conflict as a kid. Hearing about freedom, liberty, and equality in school and then at home learning a different reality – certain rules don’t quite apply to you. Think about that the next time you wonder why “blacks get so upset all the time” or you have the courage to ask me “why do blacks have to act that way?” Imagine growing up having to have that type of intense awareness every time you walk into the world. Then ask yourself: “Do I truly understand race relations in America?”
When I encounter racism, the first thing I do is ask, “What are my surroundings like just in case I need to defend myself.” This comes from years of Mom’s Trayvon Martin speech. The second thing I ask is, “Am I overacting to what feels and seems like racism in this person’s actions?” – this comes from growing up around some people who want me to believe that racism no longer exists. What do you do when you encounter racism? Do you even notice it? Have you ever been “walked-through” at a grocery store or a mall? Ask me what it’s really like when you’re alone with a cop and a judge in a small town. Ask me what it’s like when you’re driving your friend’s car on a small highway, he’s with you, and you get pulled over, searched, and interrogated with no explanation (Huntley remembers that one). Ask me about the time when I was the sole witness in a hit-and-run, and one of the cops ran directly to me and did a physical search and background check on me immediately, until they realized I was the witness. Ask me the last time I experienced racism in front of several witnesses – it was last week in Houston…and two weeks prior in Tulsa. Ask me how easy it was to dismiss my 1st Amendment rights as I walked away in these situations… having to quickly evaluate stereotypes and personalities with reality.
Anger isn’t the word that describes how I feel when I think about Trayvon Martin’s death and when I recall the number of times I made that same walk to a local convenience store for some ice tea and skittles. My heart is broken over Trayvon.
I didn’t always listen to mom. Sometimes my family may not have known exactly where I was. I joked around and thought I could get away with what “some of my white friends did.” We all have. But to this very moment no matter what part of the country I’m traveling I’m always aware that because I am a black male, even nice people may not be what they seem. So when I seem to get upset about racism, or sexism or homophobia or any other –ism or -phobia, it’s not because it’s a “comfortable excuse” – as I’m often told.
I don’t know if this will ever change for me. I’ll certainly tell my kids the story of Trayvon Martin, just like Mom told me. My prayer is that God comfort the heart and spirit of Trayvon’s parents and help us all find the courage and path to own, understand, and overcome our personal prejudices. It may be too soon to make the assumptions I’m making here and I’m certainly only speaking from my point of view. But I hope others share their stories.
Full Article Here – http://www.facebook.com/notes/roscoe-mapps/the-trayvon-martin-speech/10150625085178947