Talking About Trayvon Martin with My Sons

Hi Meltingpot Readers,

trayvon-martin-240I know some of you don’t live in the United States, but still you’re probably aware that all eyes are on a particular courtroom in Sanford, Florida right now. Newspapers, social media, the nightly news and everybody’s grandma is talking about the Zimmerman trial as the lawyers wrap up their closing arguments in the trial for justice for Trayvon Martin. In other words, I couldn’t keep this court case from my children even if I wanted to, which I don’t.

Dear readers, I considered not telling my boys, now ages 12 and 9, about this uncalled for and vile murder because I didn’t want to upset them. I didn’t want them to worry that they too could be targeted and shot because of the color of the skin. It’s 2013 for cripes sake. Why would I want to burden them with that? I tried to tell myself that Trayvon Martin’s murder was an aberration, perpetuated by a single crazy man. But the truth is, Trayvon Martin is only one of many young Black boys killed simply for being a young Black boy. Plain and simple. And even though George Zimmerman is a narcissistic, racist, failure of a human being, there are plenty of other people who think the same way he does about Black boys. And sadly, they too have guns. So guess what, dear readers. We are talking about George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin in the Kinky Gazpacho household.

Here’s how it’s done. First of all, we don’t have cable so nobody is watching the trial 24/7. And we barely turn the television on with the children around. Still, they caught glimpses of the trial while we were in Wisconsin staying in a hotel with cable and I’ve actually made them watch the five-minute updates of the trial on the nightly news these past few days. I have explained to them the entire crime and like me they are outraged and literally confused by the actions of George Zimmerman. “Why’d he shoot him?” they want to know. “Why didn’t he just sit on him or punch him?” my younger son asked, noting how fat Zimmerman is. So, luckily for me and them, they are looking at this trial as a singular example of injustice. They haven’t personalized it. They are not seeing themselves in Trayvon Martin, which is good. They are not afraid of George Zimmerman types killing them. They still wear their hoodies with pride and innocence. (Depending where we are going, however, Mommy makes them take the hoods off their heads because I’m not so innocent.)

So, yes, we’re talking about Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman in this house. But I am making a point not to inflate the issue into an issue that my kids couldn’t process or that would instill too much fear. I’m not talking to my kids about the war on the Black male body or the racists that live amongst us. That, I fear would snatch away their childhoods and I don’t want that. What I do want is for my children to develop a sense of right and wrong, empathy and justice. I want them to understand the world they live in but not to fear it. I want them to have a childhood filled with laughter and light. But I know that laughter will be tempered with flashes of realism and sometimes sadness. But that’s okay because at the end of the day, we surround our boys with love. We are all praying for justice for Trayvon Martin.

What about you dear readers? Are you talking about Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman with your children? How are you handling it? How are they handling it? I’m totally listening.


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6 Thoughts to “Talking About Trayvon Martin with My Sons”

  1. I wrote a while back about my experience having the conversation in our house with my now 12 year old.

    “We have had ongoing, complicated conversations in our family about the ugly realities of prejudice and racism. Through those discussions and having a strong support network, I emphasize that there is power in choices. We work towards being living examples of what is right and what is possible. The only way to plant seeds of hope and peace is to open conversation.”

    There are some links in the post and resources to having the conversation with kids. I hope you find it insightful.

    1. Ms. Meltingpot

      Thanks for posting this and your essay was really powerful. Please keep writing.

  2. Wendy

    I feel like you have to know your children in situations like this. punto pelota. Only you, Mrs. Melting pot, know your sons. If you feel like now is the time to tell them, then now is the time.

    1. Ms. Meltingpot

      Thank you.

  3. kara

    Glad to read you are speaking to your sons about it. I have to admit I stopped frequenting your blog last year because I was so bewildered by your choice not to mention it to your sons. At the time you equated it to a nuclear documentary you saw when you were 10. Fright would be a natural feeling because it’s a frightening situation and we do a disservice to ignore it completely or only tell 1/2 the story in order to control our children’s thoughts or emotions. (And while i trust your experience with the documentary, it’s also possible that conversations about the evils of war would have eased some of your nightmares. Even if they didn’t, to be a child in your generation and know nothing of nuclear war is an example of the very privilege we ultimately want to dismantle. We know some children would have felt rather blessed to only know of nuclear bombs from some scary movie.)

    While unfortunate, children need to be told the TRUTH about the world they will inherit and withholding information from them only makes their reality….less realistic and honest. Sometimes children can accept things easier than we can. And if we frame the conversation on ‘how are we going to make the world a better place’, ‘this is why guns should be strictly regulated’, or ‘this is a horrible instance of the effects of judging people based on their looks’ we raise children who can grow into adults much more justice minded than the adult who learns harsh realities after settling into and believing false narratives. Too often we create a world for our children that doesn’t exist; it makes it comfortable for us but inevitably they grow into adults who experience confusion and isolation when experiencing a different reality than the reality they grew up believing. Or children who fail to see reality at all–I’m thinking of those in the majority who never talked about issues of race and as adults are unable to see issues of race. They have a significant hurdle to overcome–realizing they were taught not to see certain things and that those ‘things’ nonetheless do exist.

    1. Ms. Meltingpot

      Thank you for your honesty and thank your for returning to the Meltingpot. I appreciate the push back and your points are very well taken.

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