After hearing about the acquittal of George Zimmerman and reading the emotional firestorm that flooded social media I considered what lessons I would want my kids to learn from this case. The answer is NOTHING. I don’t want them to become defeated or make excuses for themselves. I want them to grow up aware of what’s coming at them, and overcome those obstacles. The following is a letter I wrote for them with that hope in mind.
Our country is great, but flawed. She is beautiful and infuriating all at the same time. You could spend years traveling within her borders and experience many amazing cultures. In fact, we could drive for less than an hour and immerse ourselves in several cultures here. With such rich diversity around, you will grow up with a genuine appreciation and respect for everyone you encounter.
You will be culturally knowledgeable and aware without being politically correct. You will ask questions and explore with a global perspective. You will understand cultural expressions without name-calling. Your mother and I will give you the tools and the heart to be kind to your fellow man. However, I’m sorry that they may not show you the same respect.
You will encounter people who will not know you, but they will think that they know your “type”. They will assume to know your strengths and weaknesses before you have a chance to demonstrate them. They may even try to keep you from achieving your goals one day. I am sorry, but this is what you get.
If you ever remember any words from me let it be these: Other people’s prejudices does not give you an excuse. Racism is not new, but our history has still given us Frederick Douglas, Jackie Robinson, General Chappie James, and many more. Racism did not disappear or take a break in order for these people to do great things. You are never allowed to use it as an excuse to give up or give in. The dreams you have now are waiting for you to fight for them. The obstacles that stand in your way are temporary and have been overcome before. No one will give you anything, but don’t allow anything to keep you from your dreams. This is the society you’ve been born into.
Find your path, or blaze a trail.