My Peach Colored Son
By: Chellie Gardiner
It is not hard to see why the issue of racism has come to the forefront of our collective attention. The murder trial of George Zimmerman for shooting and killing Treyvon Martin has been all over the news as have been the reactions of many. This trial was about civil rights, profiling, bigotry, and then finally the violent shooting death, the murder, of a young black man by a light skinned adult man. There is no question in my mind that Mr. Zimmerman profiled and went after Treyvon Martin on that February night. Had he stayed inside his car or followed the directives of the 911 operator, it is almost certain that young Mr. Martin would still be with us. I am also convinced that Zimmerman believed that he was doing the right thing and viewed himself to be protecting his neighborhood. Based on the content of the conversation of the mutual phone calls the two men made, they both were suspicious of each other based on profiling.
Zimmerman decided that the Martin boy was a thug because he was wearing an article of clothing often chosen by young toughs, he was black, and he was walking out in the dark in a neighborhood that had seen several recent robberies. Martin identified Zimmerman as a “creepy-ass cracker” over the phone to the friend with whom he was speaking. My Chihuahua has a hoody however, and she is not a thug. She is also black and requires a night time walk. I am Caucasian and out with her during those night time walks. I would prefer not to think of myself as a creepy-ass-cracker. This kind of oversimplification is as unhelpful as it common. Being African American while wearing a hoody during an evening walk was certainly not a crime. Unfortunately, there is a huge number of hoody wearing black guys in jail for committing all sorts of awful crimes including burglary. “More than 846,000 black men were incarcerated in 2008, according to U.S. Bureau of Justice estimates reported by NewsOne. African Americans make up 13.6 percent of the U.S. population according to census data, but black men reportedly make up 40.2 percent of all prison inmates”, states Ohio State University law professor and civil rights activist Michelle Alexander. On the other hand, almost all serial killers are white guys that could be accurately described as “creepy”.
They both had reason to each be concerned about the other. If Zimmerman was following me while I was out walking down the street at night, I might think of him as “creepy” and would feel completely justified in my concern. I would also view Martin with some anxiety if I were out by myself and saw him walking slowly down my street. I am a 5’ 8 ½”, fairly fit Veteran of the US Army, and I served my country during Desert Storm. If I had to be out alone (or with the aforementioned Chihuahua) I would view either and/or both men as a possible threat to my wellbeing despite the fact that I can take pretty good care of myself in a confrontation.
So where does my “peach-colored son” come into this, you might be wondering… and also “What in the heck are you talking about… a peach-colored son… what?” My peach-colored son is something I did right as a parent, and it has everything to do with today’s discussion. I enrolled my son in something called “Computer Tots” when he was in pre-school. I knew that computers were going to be a large part of the future, so I wanted him to have a head start in their use. One afternoon when I was picking him up from his class and driving home, he happily told me that he had a crush on a little girl in his class. I smiled and asked him to tell me about her. He explained to me that her name was Maria, and she was really nice and pretty and that she had long black hair. He then pointed at his own skin and elaborated that Maria was “peach, just like me”. For him, the color of his skin and hers was a method by which he could better describe her. The color of her skin was peach, not Hispanic, just peach. His well-tanned, Caucasian skin was peach. To him, they had the same color skin, mostly, because they had the same colored skin. There was no Hispanic or Caucasian colored crayons in his art box – or in his head. He, to put it quite simply, had been raised that way. Her color was merely a descriptor, not a delineator…. which is as it should be. We all should be cautious of those we don’t know regardless of color. Trouble comes in every color as does kindness. My son believed this and still does. This country could take a few lessons from my peach-colored son.