When I was fifteen years old, I was still immersing into my alcoholic life. I had an older boyfriend that had already been arrested for drunk driving, I was drinking nearly every day, and I made questionable decisions on a daily basis. But I remember one night in particular as being a crazy story, the kind of story I love to trot out to mildly shock non-alcoholics, about the time that my boyfriend was too drunk to drive and too broke to take a cab so he called me and asked me to use his broken down, so-rusted-you-could-see-the-road Pontiac LeMans to come get him.
But I was 15. I didn’t have a driver’s license. I hadn’t yet, in fact, taken driver’s ed. My boyfriend had “taught” me how to drive, and I really thought I knew what I was doing when I got behind the wheel that night. I drove it successfully for a few blocks, until I was in the middle of a left turn in a major intersections and boom the car died.
I was right in front of a cop.
So what did I do? I immediately got out of the car as I saw the officer approaching, and then I started weeping. I was scared, sure, but I was also a manipulative girl, and I batted my big blue eyes with one big tear in each one at the officer and instead of “show me your license” he began awkwardly patting my shoulder and helped me push the car out of the road into a parking lot. I then called my mom for a ride (leaving my boyfriend to his own devices).
But I know this, for sure: if I weren’t a pretty young white girl, this story would not have ended the same way.
I haven’t written about my horror and dismay with the George Zimmerman verdict. I’ve vented on Twitter and Facebook, and I’ve shared about discussing it with my daughter, and I’ve spoken with friends about it at length. But I haven’t blogged about it.
But then this popped up on Twitter, and I sat up.
I get the whole intersectionality stance and being careful, but if white women DON’T speak up about Trayvon then it’s just another letdown.
— mochamomma (@mochamomma) July 16, 2013
Even so, I sat back. I couldn’t get passed this feeling that this wasn’t MY story, and that I’d be stepping on toes to write about it. When I said this to Kelly at BlogHer, she looked at me with a mix of exasperation and pity and said, “You’re a mother, aren’t you?”
I am a mother. But I am the mother of a beautiful white girl with big blue eyes, just like me. She will never be shot by a George Zimmerman for walking home from the store with Skittles and iced tea just because she’s a white girl not from the neighborhood.
I don’t have to teach my daughter that she can’t get out of the car when a cop approaches her (although I will), like I did at 15.
I don’t have to teach her to place her hands outside the car window, take off her hat and sunglasses, say “yes sir” and “no sir” or any of the million fucking things that mothers of brown children have to teach their children in this country.
Especially mothers of brown boys.
I’m sorry I haven’t stood up sooner. I’m sorry I haven’t yelled with all the other mothers about injustice and bullshit and insanity and horror and how how how HOW could they have declared him not guilty for profiling, stalking, and attacking a young boy just trying to walk home?
I’m so angry I’m sick. I’m so disappointed in people my heart is crushed. Not just by the verdict itself, but by the dozens of white acquaintances I saw saying things like, “What could they do?” and “He defended himself, at the end” or “They followed the laws of Florida” or, worst of all, “Thank GOD.”
Because I’ve got to tell you I don’t want shit to do with a God that thinks what happened to Trayvon Martin is okay, or justified, or acceptable. And I sure don’t want to have anything to do with people that think that either.
So, I’ve written this to apologize. For staying quiet. For sitting comfortably in my privilege and thinking it was enough to express dismay on social media. It’s not enough, it will never be enough, and I will work harder from now on, and I will teach my daughter to be part of the solution.
She already knows, though. After President Obama spoke about the verdict, she asked questions, and my husband and I gave her a bare-bones, appropriate for a seven year old version of the story. She thought for a moment and said, “He’s not going to jail?” I shook my head and said, “Honey, no, he wasn’t convicted.” She thought for a long moment and said, “That’s bullshit.”
It sure is, my darling girl. It sure is.