I couldn’t help but wonder what my African-American neighbors and community members must have thought the other day when they saw me with my family in Walmart the day after the verdict. You see I was simply talking my middle class family of four to the store for our weekly grocery run. We drove up in our Volvo and walked into the store. I saw several people I knew and exchanged pleasantries with them like I would on any other occasion. Some of the folks were black and some of the folks were white. No big deal and nothing out of the ordinary.
Nothing different except for the fact that the night before, a jury rendered no punishment for a young white man who murdered a black kid. Nothing different except for the fact that my blond-haired, blue-eyed daughter happened to be chilly and decided to wear a “hoodie” to keep her warm. The timing of her wearing that “hoodie” wasn’t lost on me. But why would I tell my 7-year-old blond-haired blue-eyed girl to do otherwise? To be honest I don’t think she even knew anything about the case and she definitely knew nothing of the verdict.
Was I wrong in letting her wear this “hoodie”? To her it was something to keep her warm while shopping. But to millions of young black men, it now means something entirely different. If my daughter or son had been black would I have allowed/ wanted him to wear a “hoodie” to Walmart the day after the verdict was rendered? I have no idea and I never will. Because I am white and because I never have to worry about society viewing me differently based on my choice of sweatshirt.
I am a vice principal at an elementary school in an urban area of Maryland. My school is 80% African-American. What do I tell my students? What must they be thinking? How can we help them to still have faith in the world? Do they even know about the case/verdict and should we tell them at such a young age?
I don’t know the answers to either of these questions, but I won’t stop trying to find them.