I went to my church's Sunday School Christmas program. It started at 9 a.m. in the Fellowship Hall (located in the church basement) and it preceded regular church service at 10:45 a.m. I had to go to support the kids. If kids can't find love in church, they won't find it anywhere.
I go to a small church, so there were about 10 kids dancing in the Christmas program. It was more like a Christmas Casper Slide than a praise dance, so it was co-ed and it wasn't weird at all. They were dancing to one of the songs and a little boy, he couldn't have been more than 8, was singing the song at the same time (no one else was singing).
I'm telling you he was singing his HEART out. And it touched me so. He was so young that he didn't care that he was singing a gospel song in front of a bunch of people and no one else was singing.
Here's what messed me up. He looked like a little thug. He had on a big t-shirt, baggy jeans and Nikes. Like if he was a grown man at a bbq, I would have hollered at him. How is it possible that my brain can equate an 8 year old to a thug? I was so angry that the thought crossed my mind. Then I thought about the fact that it he was a little white boy singing I would have thought he was precocious or quirky or something like that.
I got really choked up because I saw Trayvon Martin in this child. I saw a child, with a heart for God, who had no ill intent against anyone, but because he was black and dressed in urban wear I EXPECTED that he would have been one of the kids that was "too grown" or "too hip" or "tool cool" or "too gangsta" to be in the church basement singing and dancing for the Lord.
I hate that this crossed my mind in this way. And I hate that everyone wouldn't experience his heart for God and one day he may be judged by the Nikes on his feet rather than the song in his heart.
I'm sorry that the thought crossed my mind. I'm angry that even as a member of two marginalized groups in society I can still even formulate a thought that marginalizes another group.
Here's where I hope I differ from the George Zimmermans of the world. My thought, as irrational, as it was, was not an action. I did not treat this child like a thug because of how he was dressed or what his image conjured up in me. I recognized the horrible thought and did away with it. So many people won't do that: teachers, police officers, judges.
Herein lies why I'm afraid to have children. How will I protect my kids from someone else's preconceived notions about them based on race, gender or socioeconomic status. And when those notions can result in lowered expectations, jailtime, or in the case of Trayvon Martin, death, how irresponsible would it be for me to bring an entire life into a world I cannot control.
I hope to be able to recondition my brain so thoughts like "he looks like a little thug" won't ever occur to me.
I don't have a big aha here. Just something that was on my mind, that I wanted to share.