In the days since the George Zimmerman verdict, I’ve heard questions like:
What if Trayvon Martin had been white?
What if George Zimmerman had been black?
I have questions we don’t or can’t seem to ask.
What if Trayvon Martin had kept walking?
What if Trayvon Martin had called 911?
We have been so quick to assign all of the blame on Zimmerman. Conflicts are typically the result of an interaction of factors not one single cause. We have only been examining Zimmerman’s role in the conflict. He should not have followed Martin. He should not have profiled Martin. He should have stayed in his car. Zimmerman had choices. So did Martin.
He could’ve kept walking home. He could’ve called 911.
But he didn’t do that. Why would he? We don’t teach our black boys to run from a fight. We teach them to stand their ground. We teach them to be men not punks.
How many of us grew up with mothers or fathers who said if someone hits you, you hit them back? Don’t ever run from a fight.
It’s an important message, but there must also teach our children to choose their battles. In the days preceding the verdict, an interviewee on one of the cable news networks said, “Trayvon wasn’t no punk.”
The panelist was correct. Martin wasn’t a punk. He stood up to the stranger who followed him. And like countless other black males, Martin’s bravado cost him his life.
Think about this. If Martin had been a woman who was being followed on a dark street by a strange man, she would have dialed 911. We teach our daughters to call for help if they feel threatened. We teach our sons to fight.
I know. I know. We don’t want our boys to be punks. They must be men. They must take care of the family. Well, they can’t take care of the family if they’re dead or locked up. Our desire to create strong men is sending too many of our sons to their graves or prison. There must be a balance of knowing when to fight and when to walk away.
For everyone asking what should you tell your sons. Tell them fighting is a last resort not a first response. Tell them not fighting doesn’t always make them a punk. Sometimes, it makes them smart.
Tell them George Zimmerman had a choice, and so did Trayvon Martin. Both of them made bad choices. Now one of them is dead, and the other’s life is changed forever.
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