To the Parents of Trayvon Martin:
I am so sorry. So very sorry.
As a mother, I am tempted to say something insensitive like I feel your pain. Perhaps even I can imagine how you must feel. But, both are lies. I can not feel your pain, nor can I even begin to fathom how badly this must hurt. My brain can not wrap around the excruciating, soul-wrenching pain you must be in. So, I am left with…I’m sorry.
I, like millions of others, am sorry that you will never again hug or kiss your boy. We are saddened that his life ended in such a senseless, tragic, and preventable way. It breaks our hearts that it took nothing more than traversing the street – in a hooded shirt – for Trayvon to become a “suspicious” person. To be thought of as “up to no good”. To be stalked, and murdered.
Those millions and I are further sorry that our justice system failed you. We were shocked that your son had barely been retrieved from the ground before his killer was home. Home. We were upset that it took national flash mobs to ensure an investigation. We were angry that his character was attacked and his named maligned. We were livid at the notion that somehow Trayvon has less of a right to be on that street than his attacker. We were determined to stand with you, and all who loved your son, while the wheels of justice turned.
We were stunned and outraged that, after all was said and done, George Zimmerman was convicted of nothing.
While we may not know how you feel, we did feel. We do feel.
We feel that it is shameful, in America, that the way your son was dressed garnered suspicion and began this entire train wreck of events. We know that the pervasive racism in this country continues to give credence to ridiculous stereotypes like the one your son came face to face with. And that is wrong.
We feel that it is completely and totally unacceptable that our children are being stalked and killed due to someone else’s irrational fears. We know that, in this country, the acts of rogue vigilantes should be discouraged.
We feel that if Stand Your Ground is a right of some, it is a right for all – Trayvon included. He had just as much right to be where he was that night as his shooter did.
We try to imagine the confusion and fear your son must have felt that night. We teach our children wonderful lessons about America. We continually remind them that they can be anything they so desire, if they try hard enough. We recount the horror stories of the past in order for them to appreciate the freedom and equality they enjoy now. We tell them that their clothes, their hair styles, their shoes don’t matter. Because what matters is on the inside.
I am certain Trayvon learned differently that night. I am sure he didn’t have the foggiest idea why he was being pursued. How could he? His pursuer only knew he “looked off”. He learned what hundreds of thousands of young, black males already know. He learned that, for some, fitting a profile is deadly. He learned that stereotypes can get you killed. He learned that, sometimes, adults are wrong. Sometimes, you don’t have to look for trouble, because trouble looks for you.
And that is the hardest thing to admit. We were wrong. We failed him.
Regardless of how hard we wish it, we will never be able to change the horrible events of that sad night. But there are things that we can do. We can’t give you back the child of your heart. But we can work so that his dying was not in vain. We can’t give you justice for his death. But we can fight to change laws, removing them if necessary. We can’t get rid of every irrational person. But we can fight for a society that does not condone irrational actions. We can’t heal you. But we can stand with you.
We can stand with you in our communities and states. We can stand with you in our jails and courthouses. We can stand with you in the voting booths.
Our sympathy is a start, but we can do more. We will do more.
Because liberty and justice for all is more than a slogan.
Our hearts, heavy and broken, are with you.