Every single day for seven months out of each year my fourteen year old son leaves our home wearing a hooded sweatshirt. He loves Skittles and tea. Never once have I worried he would be shot and killed for walking down the street and talking to a friend on a cell phone. Not one single time. Most days, I am ashamed to admit, I don’t even remember what a privilege that is.
White privilege? Um…yeah. My kid is white and he wears a hoodie, and when he and his friends cross the street between the closest snack vendor and our neighborhood, nobody stops them to ask what they are doing. They are not assumed to be up to no good, nor does anyone think they don’t belong here. They are white kids in rural Tennessee. They belong here–whatever the hell that means–and that turns my stomach inside out.
Occasionally, I do worry that he or his sister will be treated badly because I’m a lesbian, but even in our very conservative and sometimes close-minded town, I most often feel that they will be safe. Of course, you can’t tell by looking at my children that their mother is different from the other mothers. The same cannot be said of Trayvon Martin and his mother.
Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old in a suburb of Orlando, Florida, was shot and killed by a man who, even after being told by the 911 operator to back off, pursued him and shot him in the chest. His killer, self-appointed neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman, claims he was protecting his property and that ultimately, this was an act of self-defense.
This won’t happen to my son because he is white.
No, my son is not bulletproof. Do not misunderstand me. Bullets care not for the color of my son’s sun-kissed skin, or his feathery blond hair. If someone shoots him in the chest — much less from a distance short enough that they could have instead reached out to shake hands — he will die… just like Trayvon Martin died.
But people who hold guns care deeply about the color of my son’s skin — as do teachers and neighbors, executives and stay-at-home moms, and every other person from sea to shining sea. . . even if they don’t want to.