Dear Young Black Men,
YOU ARE VALUED! YOU ARE POWERFUL! YOU ARE PRICELESS! YOU ARE MORE THAN A STEREOTYPE!
When I heard the words “not guilty,” I immediately wondered what message we are sending to young black men like you. It is a very clear message. Again you are pushed aside and ignored in a way that sends the message that you are not valued.
I can’t help but flash back to that February night and wonder what that really must have been like for young Trayvon Martin who was simply walking home from the local store. I wonder what were his last thoughts, feelings, and I wonder what dreams he had, what he wanted to grow up to be, and what he planned to do that night after he got home.
Being the father of two teenage boys, I wonder what they could or should do if ever they are faced with such a situation. Do I tell them to run, do I tell them to quickly grab their phone and call the police, or should they call me first. I DON’T KNOW AND I WANT TO KNOW BECAUSE I NEED THEM AND YOU TO COME HOME. I NEED YOU ALL TO GROW UP AND DREAM AND MATTER. And I’m shouting through my tears and heartbreak because I want you all to know you have worth. I’m trying to shout over the message after message that tells you otherwise.
Know this: This world is changed if one of you stops breathing. THIS WORLD IS CHANGED WITH OUT YOU!
On that rainy night Trayvon did nothing wrong but the man that followed Trayvon had concluded Trayvon was a trouble maker. Young men, hear me when I say this: YOUR SKIN COLOR IS SEEN BEFORE YOUR HEART. Some will see you like Zimmerman saw Trayvon, black first; dangerous; scary. It will not matter what good you have done or have not done. Trayvon’s actions never matched how he was defined. He didn’t do anything suspicious yet was described that way. The power that comes with your skin color is scary to some and some will feel unjustifiably threatened by you. It is their thinking that is broken NOT YOU.
I’m frustrated because I want to give you instructions to keep you safe and I don’t have much. My advice is to do whatever you have to do to make sure you walk through your front door later. If you can make it home by turning and running when followed by a stranger; run and scream and yell all the way home. If you can reach your phone safely call someone with authority and let know what is going on. But beware! Because of the fear some will have towards you the simplest action you do can be seen as as threatening. Reaching for your phone could be seen as reaching for a weapon and it is through that lens you must look when contemplating how to respond. If they are too close to you to run and you can’t safely reach your phone, move slowly and talk calmly and clearly, especially if they are loud and aggressive. Keep your hands out of your pockets. If you have on a hoodie with the hood over your head slowly take the hood off. If you are in the dark slowly step in to the light. If you have on sun glasses slowly take them off and look them in the eye. Do not step towards them and don’t argue. Your job is not to debate that you have every right to be where you are or that you did nothing wrong. YOU JOB: Do whatever it takes to make it home. If that means you must defend yourself to get away then do so but that MUST be your last option.
I wish I could tell you more; give you more advice; give you the number to the Bat phone to assure your safety but I can’t. Always remember, it is the system that is broken, NOT YOU.
YOU ARE VALUED! YOU ARE POWERFUL! YOU ARE PRICELESS! YOU ARE MORE THAN A STEREOTYPE! YOU ARE NOT BROKEN!