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After Trayvon, what to tell your sons?

Many parents of boys and teenagers of color are reeling after neighbhorhood watchman  George Zimmerman's acquittal in the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. What do they say to their sons in an attempt to prepare them for this kind of situation?

The anguish is spilling over in blogs and on social media, as even stars like the Miami Heat's Dwyane Wade ask, "How do I explain this to my boys?”

There seem to be two schools of thought:

  • Prepare them for profiling. Talk to them about how to dress, how to walk, how to behave when confronted by police or anyone else - don’t talk back, keep eyes downcast and hands visible.
  • Or tell them to be themselves, that teaching them to "live like slaves" won't really keep them safe.

Here are some the perspectives being shared around the web.

One recent college graduate posted a long essay to his Facebook page about how his own mother talked to him about being a young black man:

"It used to hurt when my mother would tell me I couldn’t put my hood up or that I couldn’t stay out as late as my white friends. She told me I was a young black male and I couldn’t afford these things and I figured she never knew how much it hurt for be to know that she did not have faith that I could transcend the many stereotypes ... I have fought with my mom, dad, and stepdad about what it means to be a young black man in 2013. And I have at times been annoyed at all of them for presenting me with my constraints. But I am so lucky to have been armed with the truth at such and early age. The world can be so confusing for us. So much kindness, and so much cruelty. We've all accused our parents of over estimating the dangers out there. But they managed to teach us not to allow this country to fill us with fear, while simultaneously not allowing it to rob us of our vigilance."  

His post has been shared more than 4,000 times. 

Carolyn Edgar, who blogs about being a single mom, shares this:

"We parents of black and brown children should teach our children that they are the same as all other children – because they are. We should teach our children than they can go anywhere, wear anything, stand up for themselves and other people, and look anyone in the eye – because they should be able to do so."  

For parents of all backgrounds, distraught over the reactions to this case that show we as a society have not come so far after all, the solution is in raising all our kids to be peaceful, tolerant and respectful of everyone.

Local parent coach Karen Deerwester outlined some strategies for doing that, even with very young children, in the aftermath of Trayvon's death last year: 

"Parents can embrace diversity and expose very young children to cultural similarities and differences in ordinary, everyday ways that will have a lasting affect on kindness, compassion and understanding." 

Read the full article at

How are you explaining this case to your own children? And will you parent differently now?