We went to the Trayvon Martin vigil in front of the Federal Courthouse yesterday here in New Orleans. Despite the heat, some folks had their hoodies on, and despite the sun and humidity, people gathered. We were there to give our respect to Trayvon and his parents. There were people with signs that said DOWN WITH WHITE SUPREMACY and people with signs that said NO JUSTICE, NO PEACE.
There are those who do not think the Zimmerman verdict was an issue of race, and those of us who know better.
As my son, Tin, whirled around under my skirt trying to deal with the torture of having to stand in the heat for too long (in 4 year old time), he kept asking, “Who killed Trayvon?” “Is Trayvon dead, Mommy?” and I kept having to answer the the question over and over again. Yes, Trayvon was killed by George Zimmerman. “Why?” Because he was profiled as a black man to be a criminal.
“That’s not right, is it?”
No son, it is not right at all.
While the crowd that gathered was mostly African American, my son and I have to inhabit a space where my being white and his being Black should mean there is a great divide that exists between us, but it does not. He’s my son and I’m his mother. He asked me for water and we had already drank ours on the streetcar, so a woman offered hers. “He needs to stay hydrated,” she said to me. I did not know if she thought I wasn’t caring for my son (her being a Black woman and this having come up before) or if she was simply being kind. Carefully, Tin has to learn the history of our country, of white and black, and I have to help him understand that my skin color gives me privileges and that (right now) his does not.
That’s a tough lesson for both of us.
I think about the grit and grace that Tracy and Sybrina, Trayvon’s parents, have shown in the face of this awful tragedy.
While Tin continued to twirl around my leg, a beautiful monarch butterfly glided in and around the sweaty heads of all of those who were there to say, this is wrong, we want change, we want justice, and I thought that just maybe the butterfly was Trayvon and his spirit had shown up at his own vigil to say thanks, thanks for standing with me, for me.