Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

Trayvon could have been my son

By LZ Granderson, CNN Contributor
July 14, 2013 -- Updated 1558 GMT (2358 HKT)
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
August 18, 2014 -- Updated 1242 GMT (2042 HKT)
The former U.K. prime minister and current U.N. envoy says there are 500 days left to fulfill the Millennium Goals' promise to children.
August 18, 2014 -- Updated 1310 GMT (2110 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says the left mistrusts Clinton but there are ways she can win support from liberals in 2016
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 1149 GMT (1949 HKT)
Peter Bergen says the terror group is a huge threat in Iraq but only a potential one in the U.S.
August 16, 2014 -- Updated 1734 GMT (0134 HKT)
Mark O'Mara says the way cops, media, politicians and protesters have behaved since Michael Brown's shooting shows not all the right people have learned the right lessons
August 17, 2014 -- Updated 1523 GMT (2323 HKT)
Retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling says the American military advisers in Iraq are sizing up what needs to be done and recommending accordingly
August 15, 2014 -- Updated 1941 GMT (0341 HKT)
Marc Lamont Hill says the President's comments on the Michael Brown shooting ignored its racial implications
August 15, 2014 -- Updated 2146 GMT (0546 HKT)
Joe Stork says the catastrophe in northern Iraq continues, even though many religious minorities have fled to safety: ISIS forces -- intent on purging them -- still control the area where they lived
August 14, 2014 -- Updated 2226 GMT (0626 HKT)
Tim Lynch says Pentagon's policy of doling out military weapons to police forces is misguided and dangerous.
August 15, 2014 -- Updated 1315 GMT (2115 HKT)
S.E. Cupp says millennials want big ideas and rapid change; she talks to one of their number who serves in Congress
August 14, 2014 -- Updated 2357 GMT (0757 HKT)
Dorothy Brown says the power structure is dominated by whites in a town that is 68% black. Elected officials who sat by silently as chaos erupted after Michael Brown shooting should be voted out of office
August 14, 2014 -- Updated 1149 GMT (1949 HKT)
Bill Schmitz says the media and other adults should never explain suicide as a means of escaping pain. Robin Williams' tragic death offers a chance to educate about prevention
August 15, 2014 -- Updated 1505 GMT (2305 HKT)
Nafees Syed says President Obama should renew the quest to eliminate bias in the criminal justice system
August 14, 2014 -- Updated 2024 GMT (0424 HKT)
Eric Liu says what's unfolded in the Missouri town is a shocking violation of American constitutional rights and should be a wake-up call to all
August 13, 2014 -- Updated 1922 GMT (0322 HKT)
Neal Gabler says Lauren Bacall, a talent in her own right, will be defined by her marriage with the great actor Humphrey Bogart
August 15, 2014 -- Updated 1056 GMT (1856 HKT)
Bob Butler says the arrest of two journalists covering the Ferguson story is alarming
August 13, 2014 -- Updated 2035 GMT (0435 HKT)
Mark O'Mara says we all need to work together to make sure the tension between police and African-Americans doesn't result in more tragedies
August 18, 2014 -- Updated 2006 GMT (0406 HKT)
Pepper Schwartz asks why young women are so entranced with Kardashian, who's putting together a 352-page book of selfies
August 13, 2014 -- Updated 2308 GMT (0708 HKT)
Michael Friedman says depression does not discriminate, cannot be bargained with and shows no mercy.
August 12, 2014 -- Updated 1251 GMT (2051 HKT)
Mary Allen says because of new research and her own therapy, she no longer carries around the fear of her mother, which had turned into a generalized fear of everything
August 12, 2014 -- Updated 1959 GMT (0359 HKT)
Gilbert Gottfried says the comedian was most at home on the comedy club stage, where he was generous to his fellow stand-up performers
August 12, 2014 -- Updated 2054 GMT (0454 HKT)
Iris Baez, whose son was killed by an illegal police chokehold, says there must be zero tolerance for police who fatally shoot or otherwise kill unarmed people such as Michael Brown
August 12, 2014 -- Updated 1246 GMT (2046 HKT)
Maria Cardona says as he seeks a path to the presidency, the Kentucky Senator is running from his past stated positions. But voters are not stupid--and they know how to use the internet
August 13, 2014 -- Updated 0219 GMT (1019 HKT)
Gene Seymour says the shock at the actor and comedian's death comes from its utter implausibility. For many of us over the last 40 years or so, Robin Williams was an irresistible force of nature that nothing could stop.
August 12, 2014 -- Updated 1951 GMT (0351 HKT)
Soledad O'Brien says the story of two veterans told in a documentary airing on CNN shows the challenges resulting from post-traumatic stress
August 12, 2014 -- Updated 1525 GMT (2325 HKT)
LZ Granderson says we must not surrender to apathy about the injustice faced by African Americans
ADVERTISEMENT