In case you aren’t familiar with his plight, the 17-year-old Florida teen was murdered on Feb. 26 as he was walking back to his father’s home in Sanford, Florida. The young man–just a month after his 17th birthday–lost his life to an over-zealous “neighborhood watch captain” who seemed to have something against young Black men.
Thinking of young Trayvon being stalked and killed by a man who was 10 years older and 100 pounders heavier is unimaginable. And since hearing of his death I’ve been somewhat obsessed with his case. I’ve written article after article, kicked off a twitter campaign to raise awareness about his death, and have gotten to know the details of the case.
But why? Kids get killed every day….why am I so obsessed about Trayvon?
Being a mother makes me sensitive to things like this. My son could easily be Trayvon in 10 years. I live in a upper-middle-class neighborhood where the local police are notoriously racist. I’ve been told several times by male friends that they’ve been stopped in and around these parts, so I’m acutely aware of the hurdles my son will face.
But there’s something else about Trayvon’s death that’s got me all up in my feelings: His life was too short.
He was barely 17, barely knew what it was like to love, didn’t get to go to college, or to celebrate his 21st birthday, or get married, or be a dad. George Zimmerman took that away from him. And no matter how hard I try to shake the feeling that my son or brothers or father could easily be Trayvon one day, I can’t.
Life is precious. It is a gift, and yet so many disgard and undervalue it as if it is nothing. As if it is of no value at all.
When I think of Trayvon, I also think of the men in my family, like my grandfather, who made it out of the bad old South to see things; to live life.
My grandfather–a man who dropped out of school in the third grade to work the fields–lived his life. For 75 years he lived on his own terms and managed to attain the America Dream in spite of all of the challenges he faced.
My grandfather was basically illiterate, and yet he memorized the Bible so well he preached at churches all around the country. His love of the Lord took him all the way to the Holy Land, Israel, to walk the streets Jesus walked.
Despite his limited education, my granddaddy was able to work his way up at Lockheed Martin and gain top-secret security clearances and retire with a pension and a paid-for house. He did that. He moved his family from a small town in Arkansas to Cleveland to Los Angeles for a better life. He was fearless.
And it is that same fearlessness that both inspires and scares me about my son.
I don’t want him to lose his inquisitive nature. His openness to learn about his world and about other people are some of his best traits. I don’t want him to limit himself and slink away from life because he is afraid of what may befall him if he’s caught on the wrong street wearing a hoodie and carrying a pack of Skittles. He shouldn’t have to carry the burden of society’s prejudice, and yet…he does.
It is for this exact reason that nearly every, single weekend we venture out and see something new. It is for this–to spend time building memories with my son–that we hit the road and attempt to see the world.
I would hate to lose him; I am certain that would kill me. But it would be even more tragic to waste the time that we have together because I am too busy working, or hanging with my friends, or recovering from the week.
No, time is too short.
It’s too short to just phone it in and put things off until tomorrow. Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant, Danroy Henry, Latasha Harlins, and countless others all had tomorrow pulled out from under them like some cruel trick. Just like that.
So every day I will tell my son I love him, and hear him out, and build a memory, because you never know when that’s all we will have left.