Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Black Motheritis, Black Fatheritis, and the Trayvon Martin shooting case

One narrative emerging out of this terrible event is that black parents have to coach their teens to avoid giving the impression to white people that they are up to no good. This is of course humiliating to have to do, and enraging if it is in fact necessary. Black Motheritis and Black Fatheritis are now abroad as memes, as parents tell of their fears for their children, and of their resentment of having to take such extra precautions that racial majority parents don't.
It is an infuriating condition, this blackmotheritis. There are times when you want to defy it. Go ahead, child; scratch that itch; zip your coat; put your hands wherever you want. To hell with answering someone's prejudicial paranoia. You're free. Be it. But before you say that, you envision a finger pointed at your boy. There's a scream, perhaps. Then the clopping of heavy shoes, as the cops rush in, their nightsticks drawn and perhaps their guns, and flashlights blinding your boy's sweet, brown eyes and suddenly, there's the hard, cold floor in his face and his arms wrenched behind his back and shackled. And all you can think about is how they had better have plenty of room in the jail that day because you, civilized woman, are going to act such a damn fool if they ever do that to your boy.
As the father of two black teenage boys, this case hits close to home. This is the fear that seizes me whenever my boys are out in the world: that a man with a gun and an itchy finger will find them “suspicious.” That passions may run hot and blood run cold. That it might all end with a hole in their chest and hole in my heart. That the law might prove insufficient to salve my loss.
Come to think of it, I may have encountered some black kids who have been coached in this way by their parents. I sometimes have occasion to tell black teens to quit making nuisances of themselves. Some of them come back with what sounds like a very well rehearsed "Yes, sir!" & pipe down. Other times I'll pass kids whom I don't know on the sidewalk and they'll give me an extra cheery "Hello, sir!". I always thought in those instances that they were very well behaved--which I suppose they are--but maybe it was also survival skills taught to them. A shame that it's necessary, if that's what it is. Also: Author of Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law says Zimmerman should probably be arrested.