Thursday, March 22, 2012

My Kids

There has been a lump in my throat for days. In the back of my brain all day long is a thought about Trayvon Martin.

This weekend, before Martin was killed, I was chatting with some neighbors in view of my apartment complex and we heard squealing and yelling and shenanigans from that direction. I was startled and joked about how teenagers were a pain, except the ones in my building who are perfect angels that I love dearly. The loving them dearly is true. Nobody's perfect.

If my life were fiction that would have been the foreshadowing because I haven't been able to stop thinking about these kids all week. I remember when I first moved in and most of them were early elementary school age. One boy was the oldest and as they played in the courtyard he directed them all, getting that special brand of little man angry at the rest when they didn't listen to his directions about game rules and neighbor etiquette. He's now in college and has the wingspan of an eagle. Whereas when he was younger he would hold the door for me now he stands in the airlock space and stretches out to hold both doors for me. Strangely, I never see him angry anymore.

His younger brother went through a quiet, cloudy stage that somehow just lifted about a year ago. He's an upperclassman now so that makes a certain amount of sense. I'm hoping for the same from the younger daughter of a two girl pair in another family. She has that walled, about to give up look you see sometimes and, where her sister and mother are constantly reaching out to people, it's clear she doesn't want that for herself. Yet.

The cousins of those girls are all pretty chatty. The eldest boy wasn't until he saw me decked out for my first Mermaid Parade. Something about my willingness to lean in to my insanity seems to have opened him up. He talks to me every time we see each other now. His younger brother has lately acquired an enormous, pardon me dating myself, posse who troop in and out all the time. He directs them fiercely about opening doors for people and keeping quiet in the hallways. He seems like a leader.

About a year and a half ago this one lone boy, right in the middle of the building age group, suddenly appeared. Now, he'd lived here all along, we knew each other, but all at once he sprouted both physically and socially. He's nearly as tall as the eagle boy, he has an easy, brilliant smile, he's polite and interesting and seems always to be coming from or going to some kind of sporting activity. There is something so unfailingly genuine about his every action that I've been thinking of him the most.

Here's where I need to stop and tell you what I think about George Zimmerman, Trayvon Martin's killer. With the caveat that I don't know him and that I haven't listened to the 911 tapes I believe Zimmerman should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. And the law in Florida is something I'm not usually in favor of. The fact that he was not in custody at all as of the last time I checked is absolutely shameful, with a heaping side of fucking terrifying. This man has a history of reporting suspicious activity in his neighborhood when that activity is walking done by people who are not of his race. He was not attacked by this young man and the young man did not have a weapon. He was in the wrong. Now, I'm given to understand that there's a gun/self defense law that may be working in his favor but that's not helping me. I don't see how a boy walking and carrying groceries constitutes a threat.

I'm a little in the wrong, too, I suppose. I tell you all about how worthy these kids in my building are. I emphasize that they're polite and they participate in their community and they're well educated. I'm pointedly not telling you about when they talk too loudly under my window or scatter their trash in the stairwell or when one of them helped flood my bathroom. I'm about to launch into how often they go to the store for their families and walk back home in our increasingly gentrified neighborhood carrying plastic shopping bags that may well contain skittles and iced tea when the fact is all that shit is irrelevant.

If my kids, and I do think of them as my kids to some extent, or Trayvon Martin, or Ruby or Alita or any other kid wants to go to the store and walk home with their purchases they should be able to do so in complete safety. There should be no law that protects someone from killing a kid for walking even if that kid is a smart mouthed pain in the ass or a drug dealer or a hipster douchebag or wearing a god damned Bugs Bunny costume. Until they do or say something that constitutes a threat they, their clothing, and their skin color is not justification for harming one hair on their precious heads.

I know that, for the most part, I'm preaching to the choir here but I also keep saying that when injustice happens we have to keep talking about it because the debate, the communication, moves us toward justice. There's no justice for Trayvon Martin. There's nothing more for Trayvon. I talk a lot about how we're killing children with public policy, and education policy, and health care but that's mostly long term, slow moving, a cancer we have the tools to stop if we decide to wield them.

This time we just killed him.

*The kids in the photos don't happen to be the kids I've talked about in the post but they're kids in the neighborhood and kids who deserve to be safe and alive.

1 comment:

  1. I love your connections with the kids in your neighborhood. You see them as kids in all their aspects, - not idealized, but just as human as any other American kid. Or any other kid in the world.

    This whole incident has deeply saddened me. I wrote about it myself, today.