Iced Tea & Skittles

Peace PleaseThe only way a large man
in a pickup truck,
whom the police have asked to remain in his vehicle,
comes into harm’s way

in the proximity of

a 17 year old boy
carrying iced tea and Skittles
walking in the rain

is if the man
gets out of his truck,
confronts the boy,
with a gun
hidden in his pants

the boy could be a martial arts expert
he could be a stoner
he could be a Harry Potter fan

one thing he is definitely not:

confronting people on a neighborhood street
carrying lethal force

That is George Zimmerman

It’s astounding to me that a man who initiated a confrontation carrying concealed deadly force, which he used to kill an unarmed minor, is not guilty of, at the very least, manslaughter. And at the end of it the smiling State Attorney says this trial was never about race, yet in the same breath conceding that she believes the boy was profiled. Are we that desperate to appear post-racial? Why was the trial not about that?

And guns?

No one would have died in Sanford, Florida of a gunshot wound on February 26, 2012 had George Zimmerman not profiled or carried a gun.

Trayvon Martin is dead.

What Choice?

I sat down with a cup of coffee this afternoon to listen to the latest Radiolab podcast. As it plays, recent photos stream across the TV monitor of my blended family, my colleagues and collaborators. These are random shots of life. We’re at my Filipino/Italian nephew’s birthday. I see snaps of my nonagenarian friend, Lennie Bluett, who’d informed Clark Gable on the set of “Gone with the Wind” that there were segregated toilets on the set in Culver City, embracing Angela Davis the activist and educator at the memorial of my good friend Leo Branton, the lawyer who delivered the closing argument leading to her acquittal in 1972. I see the rhythm section from a recent recording session. I see my friends Ossie and Haize performing with me. I see photos from my friend Aimee’s visit with her baby Echo and more mixed babies in a mixed community. I see a photo of me meeting Grace Lee Boggs. It’s just so beautiful.

And then I hear this. It breaks my heart. OK, it’s an Appalachian story, so prejudge that as you may (though probably not a good idea…). It’s about a mother and two daughters, all “apparently white,” though two identify as black and one emphatically does not.

Listen. I’ll write more later. I have to run out to Inglewood to meet my white mother at her black best friend’s home for Sunday dinner. I’m so grateful for the nourishment I’ve received from this community. It’s helped me transcend experiences I’ve had that resonate with this story.

Sweet Breakfast Cereal

When my girlfriend showed me this yesterday, I admit to thinking, “Wow, they’ve really done it!” It’s not the first commercial to show interracial families or visibly mixed kids. But something in the quiet, direct dialogue, the clear relationships, and familial care in this really got me. I hate to even spoil it for you by describing how the kid’s concern for her father totally hit home for me. So watch it now before I wax melancholic:

Sure, the little girl is over the top on the cuteness scale. (She’s a throwback to Shirley Temple: overwhelmingly sweet, though watching that creative mind turning is irresistible.) But what I’m feeling are the conversations overheard – or in which she’s been included – about the higher risk of heart disease for blacks, especially men. I remember the strange feeling I had wondering why my dad was more likely to have high blood pressure and heart disease than my mom. Would he develop sickle-cell anemia? Why do only black people get that?

I’m not surprised by the hateful comments that forced General Mills to shut down comments on the YouTube post. I’m glad that some people are. That’s collective evidence of some change.

What inspires me is that there was even a choice made to use an intact, thoughtful family who is unambiguously mixed to sell cereal. Sure, it wasn’t as big of a “Julia Moment” for me as when I heard candidate Obama talk about the feelings of bias in his own home with his own blood relatives five years ago. But it was pretty stunning to see the portrayal of a normal family, not cast as exotic or comic relief where normal life problems are examined and racial particularities are an implied fact of life.

John Lewis & Cory Booker on Finding Your Roots (PBS)

Oh my flippancy…. This show blew me away. Such important and love centered stories. I loved it!

Watch John Lewis and Cory Booker on PBS. See more from Finding Your Roots.