I think anyone who is a parent of a child of any color has to think about Trayvon Martin and how he was murdered.
For me, I think about Trayvon’s murder in terms of Animal and Mineral. I send them to the grocery store regularly, by themselves. They go on their bikes or on foot, to get some ingredient for dinner. Or for some candy for me. Animal and Mineral are blond and blue. They’re lighter than My Chemical Romance and me, and lighter than their sisters.
The first time I sent them to the grocery store, which is two blocks away, I worried that they would get in trouble. It was during school hours, and I sent them with a list and my name and phone number. I watched the front window. They took a long time, and when they got home I asked if anyone had talked to them. They said yes; the cashier talked to them and gave them a buyer’s club VIP card. And also, they were short by 17 cents and someone in line behind them gave them a quarter.
(For the record, I teach my children to talk to strangers. Because if they’re ever separated from me, I want them to find someone to tell. I tell them that if we’re in a store, find someone who works there, or if we’re at a big public event, find a police officer.)
Sometimes I send them and I get a phone call from the store manager, asking for specifics about the grocery list. What KIND of corn meal did I want? What size flour tortillas?
Sometimes I go to the grocery store and I tell the cashier that they’ve probably seen my kids from time to time. Yes, they nod, they have seen them, they’re cute nice kids.
These cashiers don’t know my kids. They know what they see: two white kids buying some self-rising yeast or a half gallon of organic whole milk. They probably assume that we live around here, in this GOOD neighborhood.
To my knowledge, nobody has ever asked them what they’re doing in a grocery store during school hours.
I don’t think they would have the same experience if they were black. I think someone would wonder why they weren’t in school. Maybe even call the police, who might come to my house and ask me about it. And if they saw my messy house, with my five kids, they might think I was lazy and using welfare to keep from supporting myself.
If I were black, and had a large unruly black family.
I tend to think fairly positively about “society;” especially that we’re making progress toward equal rights for people. And I think with recent equal-marriage rights in some states, we are. But clearly we’re not making much progress with our stereotypes and our assumptions.