***This op-ed was written in response to the Zimmerman verdict. However, in light of today school shooting scare in Georgia, I decided to post this on my own site.***
Can Black children be raised in
(Post-Trayvon Martin) America?
By Nicole Anderson Cobb, PhD
An unfathomable question. And yet, the Zimmerman verdict and ensuing debates have forced me to reflect on this question EVERY DAY.
In the wake of a not guilty verdict, there has been a range of curious responses: public angst and dissension, jurors taking to the airwaves in need of catharsis, presidential pleas for national reflection, beautifully choreographed weekend rallies, and even African American pundits providing 5 point plans on What African Americans Must Do (…To Not Get Shot Down Dead In The Streets of America, I guess).
Then, there is the thing: the maddening denouement that falls upon a public whose attention span is hardwired to the rhythms of social media. We move on. We are encouraged to “move on” to the next shiny bauble of pop culture, Congressional standoff, episode of Obama-phobia or political “scandal”. Thus WE as a nation fold up our signs, take off our hoodies, eat our Skittles and move on.
Journalist Matt York observes a similar dynamic in his article 'Justice For Trayvon' Movement Struggles To Find Focus. He reports that “in the two weeks since George Zimmerman’s acquittal, the same activists galvanized by his trial are finding it hard to focus the energy of the Trayvon Martin movement.”
However, “moving on”, is a luxury of that I don’t have. I still have a question on the floor, America?
Can Black children be raised in (Post-Trayvon Martin) America?
Admittedly, it is a curious question from an American woman who is the daughter of great privilege. I was raised by two college educated, African American parents who fled Jim Crow Mississippi for the Black Middle Class enclaves of Chicago’s South Side of the late 1960s/early 1970s.
I was brought up in a neighborhood of Black professionals and the beneficiary of K-12 catholic education, travel and cotillions and completed post-secondary three degrees ultimately earning a doctorate in History.
I am the embodiment of THE AMERICAN DREAM, no?
Yet, despite that past, I dress my African American child and kiss my African American husband off to work EVERYDAY wondering if WE ALL WILL SURVIVE TODAY.
Will one of us be gunned down in the streets of our quiet, leafy, upscale subdivision---nestled in the shadows or our alma mater--- for being the “wrong color”?
Or, will we three finally be the victims of a drive-by just for taking our baby to visit her grandmother on Chicago’s South Side?
See, we African American parents of all classes, are caught in a double bind here in “Stand Your Ground” America. We are caught at the intersections of inter-racial and intra-racial gun violence that no one seems to want to help us out with.
Sadly, the America that aided African American uplift for earlier generations no longer exists.
According to the Children’s Defense Fund’s study “Black And White: Black Children Compared to White Children (September 2011), “black children are poorer, black children are less likely to live in traditional two-parent household, black children are in poorer health, black children are behind in school and black children are more at risk of arrest, incarceration and gun death.”
This data translates into Black parents and children menaced by police, meter maids, cameras in their communities and security guards on their well-paid jobs. Law-abiding Black parents and children live lives strangled by crime, food deserts, under-resourced communities, empty strip malls and crumbling infrastructure. Black parents and children live in communities to often overseen by ineffective politicians, immigrant vendors, gun-addicted males and fast food chains squeezing the last few votes, the last few dollar or snuffing out the last few lives out of destabilized and or deteriorating communities.
Ironically, this very same community provides a great deal of wealth to the total American economy. In the Nielsen Study “The African-American Consumers: Still Vital, Still Growing 2012 Report” researchers reported that “the African-American consumer population continues to be a vibrant and dynamic market segment, providing both emerging and mature market attributes. Still the largest racial minority group in America, with a projected buying power of $1.1 trillion by 2015, Black consumers remain at the forefront of social trends and media consumption.
Thus, it seems me that if Black children and Black parents are to survive in America, African Americans have to become much more strategic regarding their ECONOMIC relationship to this nation.
If our nation can’t be concerned about Black parents or whether Black families live or die, we need to renegotiate our relationship to the nation ECONOMICALLY in the following ways:
STOP supporting destructive entertainment and behaviors that makes gun sales and gun manufacturers wealthy.
STOP supporting programming, networks, advertisers and products used to promote “recreational violence” and the subjugation of women and girls.
STOP spending money in stores---from mom and pop spots to local branches of mega-chains---that won’t pay you a living wage to care for your children.
STOP voting for elected officials who delight in menacing, taxing, ticketing, excessively surveilling and dismantling institutions in your communities.
STOP vacationing in states, holding conferences and doing business in states where loose gun laws, voter disenfranchisement, educational inequality, racial profiling and mass incarceration are the primary economic imperative.
To be sure, some will argue that African Americans themselves will be harmed if we boycott such industries, products or services. Fair enough, but change certainly won’t come if we keep supporting these institutions---at our own peril.
If African American parents and children are to survive, we must be willing to stand up, LITERALLY remove the guns from our own temples and refuse to be bullied by the nation, its laws, its corrosive industries and their pipelines to prisons or cemeteries designed for us.
Since America is no longer a place willing to invest in African American children or their families, African Americans parents must now do the difficult work of DIVESTING ECONOMICALLY from our own destruction. Our survival depends on it.
Nicole Anderson Cobb, PhD, is the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence (ICHV) Outreach Coordinator for Central Illinois.
She is also the author of TANGLED, an award-winning play that examines gun violence in Chicago: http://www.lulu.com/us/en/shop/nicole-anderson-cobb-phd/tangled-a-dramedy-about-gun-violence-in-the-age-of-obama/paperback/product-20930899.html
Finally, she is also the convening playwright of The GunPlay(s) Competition 2013-2014, a competition focused on plays that examine gun violence in American life. For more information:
Nicole Anderson-Cobb, PhD, Educator, Playwright & Founder of Samaritan Road Productions is the author of the SRP blog "Writing On The Go"