This is my boy

July 15, 2013 in family,kids

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there's magic in this face. He's not just "some black boy"

This is my boy. He turned 8 just one week ago. In 9 short years he’ll be 17. All of the teenage rites of passage are in his future: getting his license, falling in (puppy) love and deeming his parents embarrassing as much as possible. He’ll also be subject to the extreme racism and prejudice of this country. He’s just a dangerous black boy, after all. He may turn into a scholar, an athlete or a theater kid, but to most he’ll still look like a thug. A threat. A brown-skinned hoodlum.

In the aftermath of the acquittal of George Zimmerman, the murderer of 17 year old Trayvon Martin, I can only feel guilt and, admittedly, regret. As a mother of 2 brown-skinned children, I secretly think “why did I do this to them? Why would I choose to bring these angels into a place where they are seen as second-class citizens?” Is this what all mothers of African-American sons imagine?

This is my boy. He’ll walk to the store on his own and wear what he wants while doing so. If he’s gunned down in the streets, some may cry, some may be angry but lawmakers won’t flinch. According to our American judicial system, his life is meaningless. If someone decides to “Stand Their Ground” and take him from this world, the law is on their side, not his. This boy who loves science, technology, and history will be treated like every other brown-skinned boy in America. This boy, who is the most sensitive and kind being I know, will be treated like HE was the criminal.

Something is wrong with this world and we need to fix it. Together we can change this, whether you’re the mother of a beautiful brown-skinned child or not. Instead of wondering why, it’s time to do. If you were at all affected by the outcome of the loss of Trayvon’s life, vow right now to make a difference. Vow to take a stand and be accountable. You may not have known Trayvon Martin, but now you know my son. This is my boy, Brandon Martin. And his life is worth fighting for.

 

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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Janeane Davis July 15, 2013 at 11:37 pm

This was a great piece. Thanks for sharing this!

I also am the mother of a beautiful brown boy who is smart and silly and kind. I want both our boys to be safe when they go to the store for snacks. I want both our boys to feel valued and precious in the world. Is this attainable or am I dreaming the impossible dream?

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Jenny July 16, 2013 at 7:53 am

I really doubt that with all the attention you’re giving to your kids, with your educating them and keeping them off the streets that they’ll turn into “tugs” who have drugs, steal from others or haras neighbors that prompts others to create “neighborhood watch”. I really doubt that this will be one of your kids. Trevor was no angel by any means – that was already proven by many people, his own phone records and his so called friends. We don’t really know what happened and it’s not about the race at all in my view. I work with many black and brown people who are well educated and well behaved. Unfortunately I also see way too many real thugs or so called gangsters who rob bystanders at the parking lots coming out of the grocery store. They come in all colors and types – white, black, hispanics, asians. They are no angels or victims – and yes, if i have to defend myself I will do just that. It’s all about choices everyone makes in their own life. Our neiborhood is supposedly peaceful and definitely no where near like Newark or that town in Florida, yet we’ve had a string of burglaries in past year that all involved black teens that drove from neighbooring town. They also made a choice – and now in prison for it. As I said I really don’t think that will be the fate of your kids.

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Nichole July 16, 2013 at 9:54 am

This breaks my heart, Amiyrah. Both the fact that it’s something you have to worry about and the fact that so many people don’t understand that it’s a valid concern regardless of the choices your son makes in his life. I’ve been wondering for days what can be done — specific, actionable steps, I mean — and so far I’ve got nothing.

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Ellen G July 16, 2013 at 9:55 am

I cannot image how this horror is making you feel. Sure, we all worry for our kids, but this is indeed different. You’re doing everything you can to raise amazing children. Maybe, someday, the rest of the country will get with it, but we’re still a ways away.

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Tricia O. July 16, 2013 at 9:59 am

I’m having a really hard time putting my thoughts on the situation unto words. I know that I’m mad as hell and I can’t believe that it went down like that. But I guess I. shouldn’t be based on our history.

You are a really good mom and Brandon is a really good kid and I’m proud to know you.

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Jen July 16, 2013 at 10:00 am

As a mom to a brown boy, I can relate to so much of what you write and wish for. Thank you for helping others (with and without brown sons) to do the same.

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Jessica, The Debt Princess July 16, 2013 at 10:00 am

First off, you family is so beautiful! I love the smiles on your kiddos faces every time I see them.

I, too, worry about what I’ve brought my boys into. I’m a gay woman and we live in a small conservative town. My son has lost one of his very closest friends because I told the mom I am gay. I hate that because of how I was born and whom I may love some day, I am causing my children strife. How could I do that to them? He doesn’t deserve to be discriminated against because of something he has no control over.

Yet, we are lucky. We can hide who we are if we feel intimidated. We can walk down the streets without being accused of being a thief or a gangster. We can feel comfortable knowing that wearing a hoodie doesn’t make us suspect.

I have no idea what it is like to worry like someone of a different race does but I do know that I do not want to live in a world where any unarmed child can be shot and killed without justice being served. I don’t want to live in a world where gay men can be brutally attacked and killed just for holding the hand of someone they love. I fight for equality as much as I can right now but I’m ready to fight harder. I’ve already signed up to volunteer with the Human Rights Campaign, I think it’s time I do something more! I wish more people would.

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Stephanie July 16, 2013 at 10:05 am

Jenny, that’s a really simplistic view of the world you have there, and I think you missed the point of this entirely. It doesn’t matter how well-educated or “well-behaved” Brandon or any other African-American boy is; there are still people in this world who won’t see past their clothes or the color of their skin to find that out. There are people in this world who will deem them a threat just because of the visual they present, and thanks to the precedent set by the George Zimmerman ruling, those people might not think twice about “standing their ground”.

Your post smacks of “some of my best friends are black.” While you are certainty entitled to your own opinion, to share it in such a way, dismissive of the very real and valid fears of a mother, shows at best an alarming lack of empathy on your part, at worst a very narrow view of the world and a blatant disregard for things that happen outside the realm of your experience or intelligence.

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Jenny July 16, 2013 at 11:40 am

You completely missed the point of my email – it was not disregarding her fears or lack of empathy – it’s the oposite, trying to ease her fears because I really don’t think her kids will be in the same situation. I grew up in extremely poor area where street gangs fights were very common, but I choose to finish my school and once moved to US choose to pay for my college, not to get into drugs etc. My point is that victim mentality is a choice. Yes, i’m sure many black kids will be discriminated against in their lifetime, just like all women that I know have been already one way or another, and i’ve been discrimiated because i’m not islandic type with long legs and blond hair and my name is hard to pronounce in business world – I live with all that daily. And all types of discrimination is around us all the time. But it’s the choice we make in response to that discrimination, on how to live our live is what shapes it. I get it she’s very worried and I sympatize with her. And I didn’t say it was a good verdict, but to choose to name her son a victim before anything happened at all is wrong as well. I chose to think that he’ll be good well adjusted boy and with happy future. It’s an optimist in me that see it that way. So maybe it’s simplistic and narrow view but I think all panickers and all rioters are far worse in their response.

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Sisters From Another Mister July 16, 2013 at 12:30 pm

Jenny, I don’t think it really matters in the end how your children are raised … it comes down to where they may be and who may be in front of them. I live in an affluent neighborhood, I drive a nice car, my kids want for nothing … but they are treated differently wherever we go. One is white and one is black and i know which one will be stopped when driving my car….
http://www.sistersfromanothermister.com/2013/07/black-and-white-in-the-usa/

Take a look.

And to my dear friend here … I hear your voice and your concerns Mama – we will speak up for our children, because we need to bring change.

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Val July 16, 2013 at 10:05 am

As a mother of 3 brown boys, I can so identify with this sentiment. And while, we already know he will not grow up to be a thug, sadly due to stereotypes, that is something that he has to prove instead of not being given the benefit of the doubt. I appreciate you sharing this heartfelt piece.

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Jess July 16, 2013 at 10:14 am

This is infuriating. It makes me so sad thinking of your son, my friends’ boys. It is scary thinking that they can’t be regular kids and just cruise around town without being scared of being targeted by someone. It’s disgusting. Color is not a definition. The mindset that so many have is just terrifying.

xoxoxo

PS he’s beautiful. But don’t tell him I said that.

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Joyce@MommyTalkShow July 16, 2013 at 10:26 am

I’m scared just like you because our boys will be judged by the unfortunate few and not as individuals.
I’ve been in physical pain and crying since Saturday’s verdict.
It scares me so badly, that when Trayvon Martin was first shot and killed I couldn’t even utter his name.
All I can do is pray and teach our son not to judge people – they way he’ll be judged.

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Andrea July 16, 2013 at 10:34 am

I didn’t comment when I first read this because I didn’t have the right words. And then I realized, I won’t ever have the right words. So I comment because I love YOU. And your family. And your children. And this, your beautiful boy.

My heart hurts and I wish I knew what to say to make it better. But there is no better. I can only move forward and teach my own child what is in my heart. To the point that when she looked at your baby’s picture, the first thing she said was, ‘But he isn’t even smiling?’ … as if to ask why. And my gut wrenched. Because your post was not smiling, either. And you need to smile. You’ve got a beautiful one. xo

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Jaime July 16, 2013 at 11:23 am

I vow with you, Amiyrah. <3

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thedoseofreality July 16, 2013 at 1:30 pm

Simply amazingly well written. And made me sob reading it, because this is NOT RIGHT. I heard someone say yesterday (and it has really stuck with me)…why was that George Zimmerman’s ground to stand and not Trayvon Martin’s ground??!! We have been talking since this tragedy about how far it turns out we have NOT come in this country. We can do better. We must do better. -The Dose Girls

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Somers Martin July 16, 2013 at 2:48 pm

Thank you, beautiful woman! This is well said and amazingly written! I think of my son, your hubby, when he was Trayvon’s age. He borrowed my car to go to the mall and I had to remind him NOT to flick my key back and forth. To do so could mean sending the wrong message to police officers who might think he was holding a gun. I think about my nephew who was accosted on the way to school and call all types of names. He is a big dude, intelligent, handsome, and full of brash, but underneath that strong exterior is the heart and soul of a youngster. As he told his mom about what happened to him, he broke down.

Every day, every second of the day, I think about my son, my nephew, my grandchildren and how we have to continuously impress upon them the dangers of this world because they are brown-skinned. And because they are brown, they must constantly be aware of how they are perceived by those who are biased and prejudiced and only see the color of their skin. And that based upon the color of their skin or the clothes they wear are deemed to be something other than what they are…intelligent, striving for excellence, destined for greatness.

Irrespective of what was in that young man’s background, Zimmerman only needed to remain in his car. That’s it, end of story. Had he done that, it would have ended there. That is what many people are missing in the discussion. He was told not to approach and he did it anyway. SMH

I love you, dear daughter! As we continue to work through this tragedy, continue to share your feelings and thoughts. Kiss and hug your children and husband tight before they leave the house and when they come back home. Relish in the fact that you and Brandon, Sr., are doing the best you can and raising those children to be the best they can be, and maybe…just maybe…there will be hope. Hope for change, hope for progress, hope for tomorrow.

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Marshall Coleman Sr July 16, 2013 at 7:22 pm

As a father of four sons, I have lived in fear for all of their lives. Doing all I can to keep them save. Myself and my wife praying God’s covering over them. Knowing first hand how evil this world is and how an African American child is viewed and treated in these United States. I have prayed that they would not get shot while playing in the park, being mistaken for a criminal and shot by the police or even shot by someone their age because they would not join a gang. Raising a child is a heavy responsibility. Raising an African American boy is a daunting task that needs Supernatural assistance to help you make it through. I thank God for helping me keep my boys safe. They are now 24, 28, 29 and 30. Praise God!!

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Leslie July 16, 2013 at 9:11 pm

Thank you so much for articulating my feelings in your article. Especially the part about how the judicial system does not the value the life of the black male. I had to confess to my husband yesterday, even though I grew up in a household of black men, I realize that I have no idea what it is like to be a black man. How can they live with the ever present reality that if you are on the wrong side of the law (innocent or guilty) the consequences are guaranteed to be harsher for you because of the color of your skin. My husband said it’s something that he was taught early iife, and while doesn’t live as a “victim”, it is reality.

Here’s an example (for those that might not understand): he keeps his car registration in the visor above the driver side. I asked him why a few years ago and he said that it’s something his dad told him to do. That if he is ever stopped by the police to keep the registration in the visor and let the officer know he has to reach into his back pocket for his wallet. And to keep his hands on the wheel…

As a black woman, I never thought to do that. I keep my registration in the glove box! But just imagine what that is like…. My husband has never been in trouble with the law. Never been arrested. Never done drugs. And yet he knows that if he is stopped by the police he should not pose the smallest threat, like reaching into his pocket unannounced. And if he did, then the police could shoot him, and he would be considered wrong…. Generations of black men that don’t trust in the law….. It’s amazing.

I could go on but the post would be way too long. I just wanted to say that I feel your pain as a mother of another beautiful black boy. All we can do is hug our sons tight and let them know they are valuable, even if society doesn’t treat them that way.

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Adri July 16, 2013 at 9:54 pm

This piece broke my heart. What I do not understand is how anybody can see this case and not acknowledge that race played a role in this case or deny that race matters in our country on the whole. We might not like it, we might not agree with it, and we might want to change it, but there it is.

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Neka July 18, 2013 at 5:31 pm

Wow! Reading this is almost verbatim what I thought after I initially heard what happened to Trayvon and then the verdict; it knocked the wind out of me. I have 2 brown children, a daughter and a son. My son has Aspergers and he doesn’t always act in the way that is socially expected of him. He’s not a bad child, just too trusting. We’re teaching him to be aware of the signals that people give; how to read feelings. We also explained to him that no matter how clean cut he might be, how well he speaks, how nice he might be, to a segment of society he will be a “dangerous thug” or a “punk” that is out to rape, rob or kill someone. We told him that he won’t ever get benefit of the doubt when it comes to him vs. police or him vs. a white person. It’s a sad reality that our brown boys (and girls) have to face. I’d be a terrible parent if I didn’t prepare him for what he will face in life. We have to tell them, they can’t afford to be naive.

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Ram July 18, 2013 at 11:01 pm

I’ve great empathy for minorities. Like my son who has Asian Indian looks will never be treated equal in this country though he is born in this great land. We can’t remove that. He can’t understand why. Similarly he can’t understand why fellow black kids who are his age of 11 years fight, trouble others, bully others. They are all kids. But I see them, not all, steal other kids’ bikes, and cause trouble in my otherwise peaceful neighborhood. My point is as much as I tell him that all blacks are not bad, and show him good black kids, he is confused and forming opinion that blacks cause trouble and he has to be careful about them. That’s how we lens our opinion with experience.Bill Cosby is my hero. Black parenting has to improve to inculcate values. Though other races too produce bad elements, somehow blacks are treated with different brush.

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Colleen - @amadisonmom July 19, 2013 at 10:53 am

1st of all… oh my goodness…. Brandon is going to be a little heartbreaker. And, I see so much of you in his little face.

Beautifully written post Amiyrah. I’ve just lost my words. But, I can vow to do what I can with you. Brown skinned or not.

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