In both cases black boys’ perceived “boldness “resulted in their deaths. And both cases still make us wonder whether we should tell our sons that they don’t have the same rights or certainly the same leeway as boys with white skin. If Emmett Till had been white and had been flirting, he might have been reprimanded. If Trayvon had been white, George Zimmerman wouldn’t have questioned whether he belonged in that neighborhood.
A lot of people have been giving black boys and men this message for years. A member of my staff warns her 15–year-son almost every time he leaves the house to go the movies or the mall in their predominantly white community that he stands out the most and will likely be suspected of wrong doing, whether he’s guilty or not. Because he’s grown up in a world much like Trayvon Martin where he feels entitled to go anywhere he pleases, she isn’t sure whether he actually believes how easily he could become a victim.
I’ve been out of the country for the last several days and just returned this weekend. I love this nation and I’m glad to be home, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t be critical of it on dark days like these.
The Staple Singers recorded a civil rights classic in 1965 that made reference to Tallahatchie River, Mississippi, the place where Emmett Till’s dead body was discovered. Check out these lyrics:
“Found dead people in the forests, Tallahatchie River and lakes”, “Whole world is wondering, what’s wrong with the United States?”