Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

Trayvon could have been my son

By LZ Granderson, CNN Contributor
updated 11:58 AM EDT, Sun July 14, 2013
Sybrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon Martin, is joined by her son Jahvaris Fulton as she speaks to the crowd during a rally in New York City, Saturday, July 20. A jury in Florida acquitted Zimmerman of all charges related to the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. <a href='http://www.cnn.com/2013/06/27/justice/gallery/zimmerman-trial/index.html'>View photos of key moments from the trial.</a> Sybrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon Martin, is joined by her son Jahvaris Fulton as she speaks to the crowd during a rally in New York City, Saturday, July 20. A jury in Florida acquitted Zimmerman of all charges related to the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. View photos of key moments from the trial.
HIDE CAPTION
Reaction to Zimmerman verdict
Reaction to Zimmerman verdict
Reaction to Zimmerman verdict
Reaction to Zimmerman verdict
Reaction to Zimmerman verdict
Reaction to Zimmerman verdict
Reaction to Zimmerman verdict
Reaction to Zimmerman verdict
Reaction to Zimmerman verdict
Reaction to Zimmerman verdict
Reaction to Zimmerman verdict
Reaction to Zimmerman verdict
Reaction to Zimmerman verdict
Reaction to Zimmerman verdict
Reaction to Zimmerman verdict
Reaction to Zimmerman verdict
Reaction to Zimmerman verdict
Reaction to Zimmerman verdict
Reaction to Zimmerman verdict
Reaction to Zimmerman verdict
Reaction to Zimmerman verdict
Photos: Reaction to Zimmerman verdict
Reaction to Zimmerman verdict
Reaction to Zimmerman verdict
Reaction to Zimmerman verdict
Reaction to Zimmerman verdict
Reaction to Zimmerman verdict
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • LZ Granderson: Before verdict I'd discussed with partner how to keep our teen son safe
  • He says pop culture conveys negative image of blacks that draws some young black men
  • He says many are susceptible to buying into it; plays out in killings such as Trayvon Martin's
  • LZ: Hard to be parent of a young black son; you want him to roam free, but worry he'll be hurt

Editor's note: LZ Granderson, who writes a weekly column for CNN.com, was named journalist of the year by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association and was a 2011 Online Journalism Award finalist for commentary. He is a senior writer and columnist for ESPN the Magazine and ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter @locs_n_laughs.

(CNN) -- Hours before the George Zimmerman not-guilty verdict was announced, my partner and I were discussing ways to prevent our 16-year-old son from getting shot while jogging in the upper-middle-class, predominantly white neighborhood we had recently moved into.

I promise you, it was a very real conversation.

"Maybe we should get T-shirts and sweatshirts with the school's name on it," my partner said.

After the verdict -- it came as a punch to the stomach -- we thought maybe it was best if he only ran inside at the nearby gym.

LZ Granderson
LZ Granderson
Holder: Justice must be done
Martin's parents react to verdict
Zimmerman's brother reacts to verdict

This is what it means to be a parent of a young black man in America today: sleepless nights, courtesy of a cocktail of institutional racism, self-inflicted wounds and statistics.

Lots and lots of statistics.

About the too-high high school dropout rate among black youths, the distressingly high number of black men who are perpetrators -- and victims -- of violent crimes, the disproportionately steep incarceration rates for black men. Those who create our pop culture have learned to monetize that negative image, and some young black men are mesmerized by it, adopting it as their own. As a result, we are all susceptible to the same prejudicial thoughts that led George Zimmerman to view a 17-year-old boy with a hoodie on his head and a bag of candy in his hand as suspicious.

Related: My son knows he could be Trayvon

Trayvon could have been my son -- and that scares the hell out of me. If, during this 16-month ordeal, that thought never crossed your mind, then you have no idea what it is like to be the parent of a young, black male in America. After the verdict, attorneys from both the prosecution and defense seemed to go out of their way in their press conferences to say race was not a factor, which sounded more like wishful thinking than accurate commentary.

After all, if Zimmerman were black, there would not have been a late night press conference afterward. When do you hear public outcry for the lives of young black males taken by other black males in cities such as Baltimore and St. Louis?

If Zimmerman were black, I doubt the NAACP would have felt the need to issue a statement.

If Zimmerman were black, Fox News would not have even bothered to show up.

I remember walking home from the store one day, back when I was Trayvon's age. A white man in a sedan pulled up beside me, rolled down his window and said he wanted to talk. I was always taught to never talk to strangers, so I stayed silent and walked faster. He drove faster. I ran, yelling "Help!" as I tried to get away from him. That's when he pulled over, got out of his car, drew his weapon and yelled he was going to shoot me if I didn't stop running.

It was only after he handcuffed me that he showed me a badge. After it was determined I was not the black male he was looking for, he let me go.

Opinion: When blacks killed by non-blacks, justice rarely served

The worst part of that story?

I consider myself lucky.

He could have shot first.

To be the parent of a young black man in this country is to be torn between wanting your son to see the world with no boundaries and warning him of the boundaries that are out there. Moving him into a safe neighborhood and then fearing for his safety. It's nerve-racking, to tell you the truth. Anxiety grips my body each time he leaves home. Seeing the defense attorneys crack grim jokes and gloat after the not-guilty verdict does not help matters.

To draw so much satisfaction from the senseless death of a young black male going unpunished; to cavalierly absolve Zimmerman of any responsibility, as if Trayvon's death did not come at their client's hands.

Opinion: Zimmerman case echoes issues of race, guns

But this is what it's like to be the parent of a young, black male in this country.

This is what it's like.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of LZ Granderson.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 12:53 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Jeff Yang calls Ello a wakeup call to Facebook and Twitter, and a sign of hope for fast-rising upstarts Pinterest and Snapchat.
updated 6:48 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Paul Waldman says the Secret Service should examine its procedures to make sure there are no threats to the White House--but without losing the openness so valuable to democracy
updated 4:49 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Jesse Williams says the videotape and 911 call that resulted in police gunning down John Crawford at a Walmart reveals the fatal injustice of racial assumptions
updated 7:03 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Mel Robbins says officials should drop the P.C. pose: The beheading in Oklahoma was not workplace violence. Plenty of evidence shows Alton Nolen was an admirer of ISIS.
updated 3:11 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
The Occupy Central movement has already achieved much by bringing greater attention to Hong Kong's struggle for democracy, William Piekos says..
updated 3:11 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
The Occupy Central movement has already achieved much by bringing greater attention to Hong Kong's struggle for democracy, writes William Piekos.
updated 10:13 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
As Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits America, Madeleine Albright says a world roiled by conflict needs these two great democracies to commit to moving their partnership forward
updated 10:04 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
John Sutter: Lake Providence, Louisiana, is the parish seat of the "most unequal place in America." And until somewhat recently, the poor side of town was invisible on Google Street View.
updated 9:11 AM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
Julian Zelizer says in the run up to the 2016 election the party faces divisions on its approach to the U.S.'s place in the world
updated 10:19 AM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says Common Core supporters can't devise a new set of standards and then fail to effectively sell it.
updated 9:29 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Earlier this month, Kenyans commemorated the heinous attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi.
updated 2:59 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
David Wheeler says Colorado students are right to protest curriculum changes that downplays civil disobedience.
updated 9:58 PM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
Sally Kohn says when people click on hacked celebrity photos or ISIS videos, they are encouraging the bad guys.
updated 7:55 AM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
Loren Bunche says she walked by a homeless man every day and felt bad about it -- until one day she paused to get to know him
updated 9:32 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
ISIS grabs headlines on social media, but hateful speech is no match for moderate voices, says Nadia Oweidat.
updated 8:33 AM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
A new report counts jihadists fighting globally. The verdict? The threat isn't that big, says Peter Bergen.
updated 5:37 PM EDT, Tue September 23, 2014
Ebola could become the biggest humanitarian disaster in a generation, writes former British Prime Minister Tony Blair
updated 12:58 PM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
ISIS has shocked the world. But will releasing videos of executions backfire? Four experts give their take.
updated 10:39 AM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
Eric Holder kicked off his stormy tenure as attorney general with a challenge to the public that set tone for six turbulent years as top law-enforcement officer.
updated 9:09 AM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
LZ Granderson says Obama was elected as a war-ending change agent, not a leader who would leave behind for his successor new engagement in Iraq and Syria. Is he as disappointed as the rest of us?
updated 5:10 AM EDT, Wed September 24, 2014
Gayle Lemmon says the question now is how to translate all the high-profile feminizing into real gains for women
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT