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On Trial

On Trial
By: Rhonda A Lee

I screamed. I fell to the floor. I couldn’t breathe. My hands were tied and no one was helping him. I was clueless as to how I was going to protect my son. Protection was all I was thinking about. The room was spinning and an evil force in the room watching my innocent baby burn. I was outside of myself and worried beyond comprehension about someone else to a point of near delusion. I’ve never felt that emotion before. I was horrified.

Trying to make the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial work or make sense in my head was a battle between what I personally knew was right, and the decision of 8 nameless, faceless beings 900 miles away who in my mind hated my son. Gregory, my fiancé, forced us to leave the house and go out to eat at about 2AM. We tried to sleep later that morning, but were back up Sunday morning at about 8AM. I dreamt about the trial. No answers came from my restless dreams during that short span before sunrise.

I’m having my first child in September. I think he looks like his daddy. Through the fuzzy window of the ultrasound I see my hopes and footprints of evidence of a happy continuation of the work that I started being finished through him. I often think about the African women brought to America and the sickness they must have felt having their babies ripped from their arms. I fight for those women. I frame my success around them. And also within that frame is my son and his reflection in a mirror where he may only see himself at first, but eventually learn that I am looking back at him and projecting all that I have to give in order to make him into a force to be reckoned with one day. I want to give him the ability to be a man with strength, and power. He will be a leader with the ability to move mountains for himself, but most importantly for others when the time comes. But now I wonder if other forces will allow it.

American Black parents teach their children survival skills very early. Our lesson plan goes beyond the lessons of hygiene, proper manners and good social graces. We teach our children how to act in department stores so that they aren’t accused of shoplifting. We put them through a mental juxtaposition boot camp when we explain to them that they can be whatever they want to be when they grow up, and it’s okay to make a few mistakes along the way; but in the next sentence tell them HOWEVER they can’t make all of the mistakes being a kid should afford them like that of their White counterparts — otherwise they may get in big trouble. Or we teach them how not to get too angry when they are obviously being repeatedly mistreated, yet somehow stand up for themselves.

And a big one for our boy children: what to do when approached by the cops. I tell my white contemporaries this and I usually get a story about that one time their son dyed his hair green and got a something pierced, and was judged, and ultimately allowed to go otherwise unmolested. Seeing yet missing my point at the same time. But I can’t fault them for trying.
After it was deemed legal to lethally punish children in Florida, I wonder if teaching him all the “right” things Black parents have taught their kids for survival for centuries will work in the end. Can I depend on my peers to understand and act humanely towards my child? Can I protect him? Can I raise him to protect himself? I believe the answer is yes.

Despite this setback there is progress still being made for equality in America. I have surrounded myself with good people of so many cultures. Like minds in my circle who outnumber the earsplitting rant and ravers who sometimes slither their way into our lives. As a parent I am equipped with resources that can and will change the game for my son. As it turns out I have inadvertently been fighting for him since I was a child myself. His grandparents were suited up and armed for him well before his parents were born. He is shielded from worse case scenarios by those who came before him from across the ocean to those who opened doors for him who now live across the street. I know my precious little boy will grow up to be a man of valor and dignity who will be the one who picks up the mantle for his sons and daughters one day, because of those who ran with the baton on his behalf so many years ago.

Am I scared for him? Terrified. But part of that fear has been tempered with a counterbalance of hope and inner peace that he has a sturdy unshakable foundation in his family and his eventual faith in a higher being that will sustain him. He is going to be a good kid and grow up to be one hell of an awesome man one day. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind about that. I will hold his hand the whole way.