Wednesday, August 07, 2013

African-American brothers say their lives have changed since the Trayvon Martin Shooting

Leland, left, and Marsellas Williams tell their story.
Two African American Brothers Share How Their Lives Have Changed Since the Trayvon Martin Shooting

By Leland Williams

 Both my brother, Marsalles, and I have grown up in a community where we generally can walk about the streets during the day or night with little care. We are friends with so many people in San Pedro that even owners of some of stores, teachers at schools we have attended, soccer families, and even restaurant owners know of our successes.

Despite knowing that we have a large part of our community supporting us, things have changed after the ruling of George Zimmerman as "not guilty" in the shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin who was walking to his father's home after visiting a liquor store. The adult man believed Trayvon might have been a threat to his neighborhood and shot the teen during an apparent scuffle.

 We too are young African American men, who at times have had to watch our backs when walking into an "upscale" neighborhood. Police have slowed down and stared at us just for being there.

 However after this tragedy, it is almost as if we can't even leave home with some sort of body guards.

 Every day now before leaving the house or going to work, I get and so does my brother: "I love you careful, call me when you get me when you get to work...I will call you when I get home too...let me know if anything happens" from both of our parents and our grandparents.

We appreciate the high level of concern, but both my brother and I can assure my family that we will be o.k. and nothing is going to happen. My brother jogs every other day of the week and he likes to run during the late evening.

"My parents and my grandparents know my running schedule, but after this tragedy it has become a hassle just to go out for an evening jog," my brother complained to me. "Every time I run, my mom will question me relentlessly if I have my phone. She even made me drive the route I run so if anything happens, my brother and/or sister can come and find me.

"My grandparents will not even go to bed  until I come back, and sometimes I run late and won't get back until 10:30 p.m."

It's as though we are elementary school children all over again despite that I am 19 and my brother is 20.

In a way, both my brother and I feel like our freedom has been stripped away. It feels like we are in this bubble where we are always having to be watching ourselves when entering certain neighborhoods, even though we know nothing is going to happen.

We are both now finding ourselves becoming paranoid, which seems extreme, but when you are judged by the color of your skin rather than your mind, especially in the circumstances of such an event, it kind of just happens. It doesn't help that our parents are terrified that something could happen to us.

 My mom continually says she "feels so bad for (Trayvon's) parents and is disturbed "that this man didn't get a single charge for killing this boy."

Our father  complains that it's "a shame that ya'll can't even walk down the street without people veering away or changing their direction when they see you. I know it doesn't happen to you two, but you know what I'm saying."

Even though the case didn't hinge on Florida's "Stand your ground" law, our grandfather predicts more black teens and young African-American men will be killed due to this type of defense.

We listen and then compare it to living in Hawaii where we attend Hawaii Pacific University which is thousands of miles away and has a completely different, and complex culture. We surprisingly do not have any of these problems there at all. In fact, people are surprised to see African Americans  because there are so few of us living there. But when we returned home for summer vacation, our parents fears piled up.

There was a time both my brother and I can remember not caring at all about the color of our friends' skin. They were just our friends, and to this day over a decade later, both my brother and I still think like that and we want to continue thinking that way.

We all need to learn not to make wild accusations just by the way one is dressed, as Trayvon was in a hoodie, or what they look like. It was extremely sad to hear that Trayvon was killed on his way to his dad's house carrying the bag of Skittles and a drink from the store -- much like we frequently do.

Because of this, our parents fear we could meet the same fate  just jogging back home from a run, walking home from work or walking home from school. It makes us both sad, because for us, and probably many other contemporary African American families, it just never used to be this way.