Trayvon 2012…stop the assault on brown and black boys

I have said it before but I am going to say it again, while raising kids in general is hard, it’s a job that is a lot harder when you are raising boys of color in the US. When raising a young man of color, it’s almost as if you are doing so with that double consciousness that W.E.B DuBois spoke of so many years ago. For me that meant raising my now 20 year old with a parental mindset but sadly with the knowledge that one day he would not be seen as just a kid but that he will be seen as a potential suspect. I am sure for some of you that very concept may seem strange but to anyone raising a young man of color, you are probably nodding your head.

Four years ago, when my son 16 one early evening he took a walk down to the local convenience snack shop to grab a bite to eat, nothing extraordinaire about that fact. Hell, teenagers often go out to grab a bite to eat! Well my son grabbed a steak and cheese sandwich and an iced tea and proceeded to walk back home as he had done many times before. However not even a block away from the store a cop stopped him, demanding to see what was in hands and then proceeded to tell him he looked like a suspect they were looking for who had been burglarizing cars. Before he knew it, he was in the back of the cop car and being driven home by the cops who wanted to talk to his parents. Never mind that my son wasn’t at my house fulltime, my son by then knew to say very little, he stated his name and the fact he was 16. Well the local cop pulled up in our driveway but not before implying that he was dubious that my son really lived where he said he did.

As fate would have it, I was out at a meeting so the Spousal Unit opened the door and quickly proceeded to ask the cop what the hell was he doing and also explaining he did not appreciate him harassing our son. In the end the cop apologized but not before the hubster expressed that he was dubious of the cop which resulted in the cop telling the hubster that he was friends with people of all races.

By the time I got home and the story was shared with me, I was ready to go to the police station to tear a new asshole in the captain and everyone else. My son asked me to let it go, but as a mother that situation disturbed me. What if this wasn’t a smaller town and the cop was trigger happy? I would have come home to a dead 16 year old son. Of course as the years have gone on, my son has had many more run ins with police both in New England and the Midwest. Never any charges but always the you look suspicious charge. Once driving back to his Dad’s from college he was stopped two times on the same drive. Sad to say if you think what my son faces is an isolated incident you couldn’t be more mistaken.

Fast forward to Trayvon Martin, a teenager in Florida visiting his Dad who decided to go to the convenience store and sadly never made it home. It seems after picking up some Skittles for a sibling and an iced tea, Trayvon crossed paths with the neighborhood watch leader that felt a teenage boy armed with skittles and an iced tea was so dangerous he had to pull out his 9mm gun and George Zimmerman the watch leader shot him dead. Zimmerman claims that he and Trayvon got into a scuffle and that he feared for his safety so much so that he had to shoot a child.

Let me say that having been the mother of a teenage boy that while on the surface they may look big, the fact is one good look at their faces generally reveals the child they really are and why in 2012 couldn’t Zimmerman pick up the phone and call 911?

Trayvon’s story is starting to get out but let me ask where’s the outrage? What happened to Trayvon is not that unique other than the fact normally it’s the police that harm young men of color, in this case we have an overzealous community member who decided to take the law into his own hands. Frankly when I heard what happened to Trayvon my blood ran cold because I could easily see Trayvon as my own boy. Just a boy going out and doing what kids do.

Last week the world was on fire about Joseph Kony with the whole Kony2012 campaign and while what happened to the children in Uganda is an outrage and Kony needs to be caught what about the kids in our own country? Every day brown and black boys in this country are under assault, from cops that would gladly lock our boys up to teachers who deny their humanity and slap an ill-fitting label on them.

I say we need Trayvon2012, stop the brutality against brown and black boys in this country and stop it now. Look in the mirror and face our own internal biases that allow us to look at the brown and black boys close to us as monsters and realize that it is systematic racism that allows this to happen.

So let me add Trayvon2012 to Kony2012 to bring awareness to the plight of boys of color in this country.

PS: The suspect the cops were looking when they stopped my son turned out to be a good 6 inches shorter and several shades lighter.

Kony madness 2012…what is it?

Kony2012? Stop Kony? Who the hell is Kony? Well unless you have been absent from the interwebz this week, you probably know the answer to that question. Though if you were like my husband, you may have assumed Kony was the latest sports celebrity…is he a Kobe? A Tebow? Sorry, kids…Kony is Joseph Kony, a Ugandan warlord, a nasty cat and a man who frankly does not deserve a spot among the living.

The world woke up this week and thanks to a viral campaign by a group Invisible Children, we all know about Kony. My Facebook feed has been filled with friends, cranky aging hipsters, elderly women in Maine and everyone in between demanding that we all band together and stop Kony. By the way, a $30 action kit will help that happen or at least that’s what the Invisible Children group says.

I admit I was suspicious, I work in the non-profit sector and well all this hype raised my bullshit antenna. However I did finally sit down and watch the 30 minute clip that has gone viral. My thoughts, well Kony didn’t just burst on the scene, in fact the atrocities have been going on for years. More importantly why the hell did the filmmakers just make this video…hello???? We’ve had the Facebook and whatnot for a while. There is also the fact these matters are a lot more complex than our pals at Invisible Children have presented, frankly what they have done is presented a sanitized version that is safe and palatable to middle class palates. Never mind that Kony has been hiding for a while.

However it wasn’t until I decided to take a look at Invisible Children’s financials (990’s) that are available as a matter of public record, that I decided sorry, kids I am not buying it. Look, I am not saying these guys aren’t sincere in their efforts, I imagine they are but and this is a big but, the work they do and have created for themselves allows for a comfortable lifestyle. This piece sums up the issues I had when I looked at their financials, so rather than writing it out, I say check it out.

Look, viral campaigns and the interwebz can do a lot of good, but one needs to be discerning before they start opening their pockets. Frankly when you start offering action kits and bracelets and making promises, I get a little skeptical. Sadly the world is filled with evil, and Kony while he is one evil bastard, isn’t the first warlord and probably won’t be the last. If you want to change the world, start with the world you live in and go out from there.  I admit in my line of work I am always amused by people who ignore the evil that is near them and instead choose to focus on the evil a world away. If you want to change the world, do both.