I know this blog is about small business topics for women entrepreneurs. Helping you to launch, grow and run your own business is my passion and I love what I do.
But sometimes, a more important topic rears up in my face and won’t go away until I address it. Like the Trayvon Martin matter. If you haven’t heard about this case, I urge you to click the link and take a moment to read about this travesty. And then I beg your pardon for the interruption in our “regularly scheduled programming” while I express my pain and rage.
I posted the following on my Facebook page and have decided to post it here too, because it is worthy of as much as exposure as possible to begin an important dialogue.
This is not a letter from Traci Ellis, the attorney, to discuss the changes that need to be made in laws to protect innocent teens from being shot and killed. This is not from Traci Ellis, school board member, to discuss education or achievement gaps or how Black children are faring in the school system. I don’t want to have any intellectual policy discussions.
This is a letter from Traci Ellis, the mother of two Black sons, ages 18 and 21 (the oldest who is pictured above), who have dreads and wear hoodies, jeans and white tennis shoes regularly. And I want to know what I tell them about why Trayvon Martin is dead. He is the young Black kid from Florida, who was gunned down in cold blood, with a bag of Skittles and a can of pop in his hand, for looking “suspicious”.
I’ve already told them all their lives that they have to be extra careful because, since they are young black men, society will quickly label them “suspicious” and guilty. Of something. Of anything. But, mostly for doing whatever they do…while being Black. Driving while Black. Hanging out with friends while Black. Shopping while Black.
And now, apparently, for walking home from the 7-11 with Skittles and a can of pop. While Black. How do I explain that to them? Do I tell them to keep their head down, eyes averted and move to the other side of the street when approached by a white person, like Black folks used to do in the south back during Jim Crow days? That seems a tad bit archaic and submissive to me, but on the other hand, if they make it home alive, who cares about their dignity, right?
Do I keep them locked up in the house unless their dad or I accompany them outside? Much more practical and easier to do when they were 4 and 7 years old than now. And besides, since I’m married to a Black man, who is equally as much a potential target practice subject as my sons, that doesn’t seem so safe anyway.
Do I ban them from wearing hoodies, jeans and white tennis shoes and make them cut off their beloved dreads so as not to scare good, “just-looking-out-for-my-neighborhood” folks? Would making them walk around in a suit, tie and bald make them safer and less threatening? Since I’m raising Black sons, perhaps I don’t get to instill in them a sense of pride in self-expression. Perhaps the most I can dream to teach them is a sense of self-preservation.
I confess that I don’t know what to do. I am guilty of the same thing Trayvon Martin’s parents are guilty of, namely, letting my sons travel alone to the store for candy and pop. So, here is my question to this community and to this country, on behalf of my two Black sons, whom I have raised to the best of my ability, to be respectful, productive, God-loving, young men, and whom I love more than anything on this earth:
Too many young, black men are being murdered in this country for innocent behavior…while Black. How do I protect mine and others from “trigger-happy” racists? Can we talk about this? I’m willing to listen.