Moments after a jury declared George Zimmerman not guilty of second-degree murder last week in the killing of Trayvon Martin, my mother told me over the phone to never wear a hoodie again. She lives less than a half-hour's drive from the Florida town where Zimmerman shot and killed Martin last year. Martin was 17, unarmed, and wearing a hoodie. After our phone call, my mother couldn't sleep. She wrote me a letter that night.
"I love you so very much and wish that I could protect you from the ugliness of this racist society," she wrote. "All I can do is pray that God will continue to wrap you in a cocoon of protection."
My mother explained her hesitance in becoming a mother, fearing that her child would experience racism and discrimination.
"I could foresee the injustices that would be heaped upon my child, by people that saw him only as inferior, no matter his qualifications," she said. Nevertheless, she went on to tell me how proud she was of the fact that I'd grown into a strong man.
I've long been familiar with the notion of blackness being potentially dangerous in this society. As my buddy Cord Jefferson of Gawker wrote, the Zimmerman verdict didn't tell black American men anything we didn't already know.
"Please, please, please, please be vigilant, and be cognizant that, although it is totally unfair, you must always be aware that your skin color makes you a target. Act accordingly, but stay strong," she wrote.
"I love you more than life itself," my mom said. "You give my existence meaning. With gratitude, hugs, kisses, and everlasting love, Your Mom."
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