21 days to happiness: My story and 3 things I am thankful for:
Today the NAACP, Move-On.Org and Changeforcolor.Org have teamed up to declare social media #Millionhoodies #Hoodiesup day, an online demonstration to encourage people in to post a million pictures wearing a hoodie to honor Trayvon Martin, the unarmed Florida teen killed by a neighborhood watch man George Zimmerman, after he was told by a 911 operator, to stop following Trayvon.
The dialogue in the media and online is controversial. Some have mistakenly categorized Trayvon’s death as an issue about black and white, but I assure you it has to do with far more. This tragic event, for many people in this country, is about perception, bias, race, judgement, assumptions, our history as a country, a flawed legal system, the media and more.
In 1983, one of my best friends was brutally murdered and her killer served just 5 years. It left us all asking; “Why?” So many years later I think of her regularly and the death of Trayvon Martin last month has stirred emotions for me as a result of that loss. But also because I am a parent of a kid just like Trayvon. Yes, I will repeat. I am a parent of a child just like Trayvon.
Think about that for a minute and let it soak in and then put yourself in my shoes for just ten seconds. I must have productive and honest conversations about the ugly realities of race and judgement with my son because he is biracial and I want him to embrace all facets of his multiculturalism. I also think it is important he is aware that there are some people who are not color-blind and there are logical arguments that the best approach is to have dialogue about it. The sad and ugly truth is that in our country social and racial injustice happen every day.
Think about the sound of anxiety in your child’s voice when an issue about race suddenly becomes real for them. And then at another time, how would you respond when your child shares fear of getting shot because of their skin color and what they have seen in the media?
I reach out to communities who understand my reality. They provide insight about having these conversations regarding perception and judgement in teachable, healthy and productive ways. I would be lying if I told you I didn’t get angry, sad or frustrated sometimes. What we live, we teach, so I focus on what I can control, which are my responses and faith that integrity wins out every time. I try to keep the following speech front of mind, because it’s how I want to interact with every person I meet.
“The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral,
begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy.
Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.
Through violence you may murder the liar,
but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth.
Through violence you may murder the hater,
but you do not murder hate.
In fact, violence merely increases hate.
So it goes.
Returning violence for violence multiplies violence,
adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness:
only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
There are people who don’t know how to have complicated conversations like the one I am discussing. As you can see from an interview I gave a while back with my friend Amy Bowllan, a blogger at The School Library Journal in a series called; “Writers Against Racism,” there is a dysfunctional old school of thought that implies “If we don’t name it, it can’t exist.” It is unjust, but it happens and every day the social undertones that go unspoken and are often misunderstood. As a parent and a compassionate human being, I am sad and shaken to the core about what happened to Trayvon.
We have had ongoing, complicated conversations in our family about the ugly realities of prejudice and racism. Through those discussions and having a strong support network, I emphasize that there is power in choices. We work towards being living examples of what is right and what is possible. The only way to plant seeds of hope and peace is to open conversation.
I believe that silence condones approval, which is what drove me to write this post. As part of this movement, they are asking we change our profile pictures on Twitter and Facebook using description hashtags #hoodiesup and #millionhoodies (instructions below) so it can be tracked via social media monitoring tools. Here is how you can make a difference.
- Talk to kids about it to give them assurance and guidance. Use the Huffington Post article How To Talk To Your Child About Trayvon Martin’s Death to have productive dialogue
- Join the conversation and tell me your thoughts and comments below.
- Tweet, blog, comment on various social media forums using hashtags #hoodiesup and #millionhoodies
- “Like” the Facebook Group A Million Hoodies For Trayvon Martin
- Change your profile pictures on Twitter and Facebook using description hashtags #hoodiesup and #millionhoodies so it can be tracked via social media monitoring tools.
Four things I am grateful for:
- In this country we have freedom of expression. I recently spent time in South East Asia where this is often not an option.
- Adversity pulls us together as communities and individuals. It takes one person to make a difference. Will you make yours today?
- We have access to tools and resources to facilitate conversation about challenging situations like this
- Being a parent of a terrific kid