"I Am Trayvon Martin" is a cry of solidarity with the slain teen. The counter-statement of "I Am Not Trayvon Martin" promotes exploration of the concept of white privilege. Here is another rallying cry of change that I want to hear: "I Am Not Afraid of Trayvon Martin." I think this is a battle that white women over 50, like me, can lead.
Women over 50 are experienced enough to know that you can't judge a person who wishes to do harm by external characteristics. Neither ill intent nor good intent can be detected in skin color, gender, age, size or clothing. Oh, that it were so simple. But it is not and, in our wisdom, we can remind ourselves and others that much pain is caused in the world in the name of warding off threats that were never meant.
Conscious and unconscious fears have been thrust into our psyches through sensationalist media images and our collective imagination building on centuries of nightmares of an uprising of the exploited. But older women are practiced at confronting our unfounded fears. We are at the age when we lose our fear of what others think and challenge fears that keep us from pursuing our dreams. We know how to root out and overcome fears that have been planted in our minds by outside forces.
White women, in the old view of the world, were those who needed to be protected. As modern women, we refuse to be damsels in distress. It's time to demonstrate to our society that we are not afraid and do not wish to be rescued.
Here are three ways to declare "I Am Not Afraid of Trayvon Martin."
Stop acting frightened. If you see a black man while driving, don't lock your doors (lock them as soon as you get in the car). If you see a black man while walking, don't clutch your purse closer to your body (tuck it close to your body at all times). Don't cross the street. Don't tense up. Don't walk faster.
Replace fear with warmth. Ask a silent blessing on each black man you see to ease any challenge in his day. Cultivate loving kindness in your heart toward him. Identify him as your neighbor and practice agape.
Learn. The best antidote to fear is education. Read The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson, Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria by Beverly Daniel Tatum, and The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander. Seek out cultural events that feature black artists and the stories they have to tell. Join an organization that works on race issues in your community.
I am not afraid of Trayvon Martin. I take reasonable precautions for my safety but go out in the world with the assumption that the people I encounter, no matter how they look, mean me no harm. My life is improved when I embrace confidence rather than fear, cultivate compassion instead of suspicion, and seek to understand before making a judgment based on too little information.
Joy Weese Moll, librarian book blogger, participates in a diversity book club in her community and reviews the books on her blog. Here is the most recent book club selection: Book Review: The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander.
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