The killing of Trayvon Martin, the Central Park 5 film and the new Oscar Grant film precipitated a conversation in my family. The conversation was about injustice and skin color. Melanin, while treated as a negative attribute in many places, is actually a wonderful thing. It allows people like me to enjoy the sun. Why is it demonized? The economics and power grabs behind the stratification of humans has a longer history than I can recount in this post. The conversation we had with my little cousin was much shorter than the history of skin color politics. Short, but effective.
Mookie is my cousin. Mookie is not my cousin’s real name. Mookie is a term of endearment bestowed upon my cousin at a time when she was padding around the ground and banging pots and pans. Now she is tall, brown, curvy and wide eyed about the world. I attended her birthday recently and was moved by a speech she wrote. In it, my cousin thanked individuals in her family tree for various lessons they taught her. Her party reminded me of the Kwanzaa celebrations my family had in the past. Her speech resembled affirmations related to community, family, education and self-determination. My cousin was ready for a new honest conversation.
Her mom and I discussed questions of skin color politics. Mookie described an incident in which she was walking with three friends after school. A man approached them and directed a question at the three young ladies lacking great amounts of melanin.
“Are you three ok?”
Puzzled, the three little ladies told the man that they were fine. “Are you sure?” the man said, looking sideways at my cousin. The girls repeated their answer, grabbed my cousin by the wrist and hurried off. My cousin. My little Mookie said, “I know he asked them if they were fine because he saw me as a threat walking down the street with my friends.”
Stunned at her clarity about the situation, I gently inquired further. I quickly learned that as a child on the accelerated math and science track in the suburbs, Mookie had become familiar with skin color politics and hatred at least 3 years ago.
“Oh honey,” I said. “Am I too late?”
“It’s never too late for honest conversation, Chevon. I love you.”
In my family, love always wins.
While injustice in this case and others is appalling and can leave people feeling helpless- I always look for a positive move I can make locally, Any positive movement is better than nothing. If you are moved to do so, choose from the options below, or add your own thoughts and ideas in the comments section.
- Donate or become a mentor for a young man
- Donate or become a mentor for a young lady
- Find a Trayvon Rally