Your Black Son: What He Needs to Know about the Zimmerman Acquittal

'Negro boys on Easter morning.' Southside, Chicago, Illinois.  1941 (Russell Lee/Library of Congress)

‘Negro boys on Easter morning.’ Southside, Chicago, Illinois. 1941 (Russell Lee/Library of Congress)

The ‘not guilty’ verdict creates an opportunity to school—and at times, remind—your black sons about history, race, morality and everything in between.

By Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele

Editor’s Note: A lengthier version of this article that includes guidance from child psychologists was published at The Root on July 21, 2013.

It’s the question on several parents’ mind: What do I tell my black son about George Zimmerman’s acquittal? Whatever feels right – but here are some guidelines to steer you in the right direction.

The Law Does Not Always Factor In Morality

Son, this is not a referendum on the value of your life. The judicial system is complex and verdicts do not necessarily reflect the moral consensus on any given issue. One of the jurors in the Zimmerman murder trial–Juror B37—initially wanted to write a book about her experiences (she’s not anymore) and in a  dated statement released by her former literary agent, she referenced the dissonance she experienced during the trial as she weighed the evidence, writing that “despite one’s personal viewpoints, it is [important] to follow the letter of the law.”

A few of Juror B37’s peer jurors released a statement distancing themselves from some of  her viewpoints, which demonstrates the diversity that exists among white people, a diversity of opinion that you should be familiar with.

And so while the jurors may have believed they could not convict Zimmerman based on the evidence, they mourned the life of Trayvon Martin, deeply, and probably wished Zimmerman had stayed in his car, per the 9-1-1 dispatcher’s orders. There are a lot of folks working hard to change the laws so that boys who look like you aren’t carelessly gunned down under the false pretense of self-defense.

Remember Your History Lesson about Blacks in America

Like Nelson Mandela said, people are not born to hate, therefore, people are not born to hate boys that look like you. It’s a learned affectation. History helps explain this.  Boys with your complexion are feared because black people were brought to this country to work as nonpaid laborers and were perceived—even back then, without any valid reason for perceiving your chocolate complexion to be nefarious—as subhuman. Unfortunately the government gradually carried out an intricate and intentional plan—via legislation and social norms—to disenfranchise black men. This ensured that black boys didn’t receive a good education and hence a good job, quality housing, and proper representation.  In television and in movies, and in the news, anti-black content flooded the airwaves—both intentionally and at times inadvertently—to sully the collective black male self-esteem and made black men believe in the inferiority these customs tried to place upon them. Unfortunately, those practices took its toll – black men paled underneath these conditions and the negative perception of black boys emerged and persevered. But no worries – all that is unraveling. The civil rights movement of the 1960s reversed a lot of the extant legislation that stifled black men, and people of all walks of life, including lawyers, legislators, teachers, writers, actors,   singers, and activists are doing everything they can to restore the perception of the black man to its rightful manner.

You are a good person, so you are already aiding in this effort.

Pages: 1 2