*One would think, months following the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, that the shock and horror of that day would be detached from our minds, the particulars of Zimmerman’s 911 call stored somewhere with the news of yesterday. But the shock and horror lives on for many black mothers. I am one of them.
I think about Trayvon while going about my day, walking, driving or passing a lone security car coasting through my neighborhood. I think about Trayvon’s mother when I’m enjoying a conversation with my son. I know how I’d feel if his life had been stolen from me, so random and senselessly. I think about Trayvon while watching the news; waiting for his name to resurface, his story to be revived, his murder to be solved.
I think about Trayvon most when I recall the time I received a call from my son, his voice urgent and anxious.
“Mom! I got stopped by the police, three cop cars are behind me!” he said. I remember my heart picking up pace, that dreaded feeling coming over me, dropping whatever I was doing and running to his rescue.
“What! Why? Where are you?” I said, the panic setting in.
“I’m on the 54 freeway. They said my tags are expired.”
“I’m on my way! Is there a police officer nearby? Let me speak to him!” I demanded. My son handed the officer his cell phone.
“Hi officer,” I said. “I’m his mother. I’ll be there shortly. I’m driving a BMW. We own three cars; it’s our car, officer. He just got in from college. There must have been a mix–up with the tags. His dad and I would never let him drive a car with expired tags.”
All the while I’m thinking; I have to let this man know that my son isn’t a thug, a drug dealer, or criminal; he’s from a hardworking, taxpaying family and is loved and supported. I have to get there before they arrest him under false pretenses, shoot him in self-defense, frame him or kill him for his skin color alone. I have to save my child!
It’s impossible to accurately describe the fear that gripped me. It was as if all of my fears of raising a black male in a white world climaxed at that moment; flashbacks of the Rodney King beating besieged me, along with vague memories of too many innocent black men shot and killed by the police.
It also didn’t escape my mind that a routine traffic stop required three armed police officers, a recipe for murder in some cases involving black males.
Fortunately, the incident turned out to be minor for our son. Trayvon Martin’s parents weren’t so fortunate. They never had the chance to run to their son’s rescue when he cried for help, tell George Zimmerman that their son had a loving and supportive family who raised him well; let the police know that their son wasn’t a “John Doe,” but that his life meant everything to someone.
When my son was safely within my reach and out of harms way, I lectured him for challenging the officer’s request to search his car.
“Are you out of your mind?” I said. “You are a black male! Do you know what could happen? You know the rules.”
- Pull over immediately
- Keep your hands on the steering wheel at all times
- Don’t make any sudden moves or gestures
- Show your ID
- And never talk back!
After I recited the list of rules his dad and I had pounded into his head, years before society became an imminent threat to his existence, his reply was one I’ll never forget.
“You want me to bow down to them? I’m not a slave. I know my rights. They can’t search my car for no reason.”
I have to wonder what thoughts ran through Trayvon Martin’s mind that day. Was Trayvon, like my son and many proud young black men, exerting his manhood, defending his constitutional rights, legally challenging Zimmerman’s so-called “authority”?
I may never know what Trayvon was thinking that day or what Zimmerman actually said or did to him. But as a mother, raising a black male in this world, I could only imagine.
Let it be said, Trayvon Martin will never die, in my heart or in my mind, as long as injustice towards black males lives on.
Sheryl Mallory-Johnson is an author of Women’s Fiction and a book coach. Her latest novel, “Love & Regrets,” is available on Amazon and other online stores. For more information, you can visit Sheryl at http://www.sherylmallory-johnson.com.