Blog: Here's what Tom says about that!

Trayvon Martin: thoughts from a white parent

Posted March 23rd, 2012 by

I cannot stop thinking about Trayvon Martin. I can’t stop looking into his eyes in this photo which has become ubiquitous online.

An unarmed, 17-year old boy in Florida walks to the store one night for some junk food. He’s shot to death because of the color of his skin. Oh, I know that some of my friends and others will take issue with that statement, because “damn, Tom, you’re always talking about race – it isn’t always about race.”

It’s pretty much only white people who would make such a statement. Of course this is about race; that Trayvon Martin was a young, black male wearing a “hoodie” – and George Zimmerman claimed that he felt threatened so he shot him in the chest. Now Trayvon is dead and his parents grieve over their child’s untimely and unjustified death.

Many have written powerful and eloquent statements about this case. Tim Wise wrote about the Unacceptable Burden of Blackness in America and how this was no terrible accident; but murder – because Trayvon was black. Marian Wright Edelman wrote Walking While Black; about how black parents must prepare their children for situations like this the best they can. Mia McKenzie wrote White Silence; about how her white friends become silent when she raises any issues dealing with race. The most devastating letter I’ve read is by Ajani Husbands: The Bullet Next Time – An Open Letter to My Unborn, Black Son.

I hope my friends – particularly my white friends – will read these articles and rather than think about reasons not to focus on race, will instead focus completely on race. Because race matters more than almost every white person I know thinks it does.

The huge gulf in life experience between Trayvon’s parents and me is encapsulated in the articles noted above by Marian Wright Edelman and Ajani Husbands. My children aren’t black. I’ve never had to talk with them about how they need to walk, talk, and act so they won’t seem like a threat. My race benefits me, my children, and my grandchildren in this profoundly significant way.

I spent this past weekend in Richmond, Virginia at the National Gathering of Coming to the Table – a group of people committed to creating “a just and truthful society that acknowledges and seeks to heal from the racial wounds of the past—from slavery and the many forms of racism it spawned.”

Traveling home from this amazing weekend, half a dozen of us were on the same flight out of Richmond; me, one white woman, and four women of color. After making it through security (I was the first of our group; I’m always the first – always in a rush to get through security), I learned that one of the women of color had left her identification at the check-in counter. After retrieving it she returned to a much longer security line. The others were closer to making it through. Ann would be awhile…

I sat down on a bench in the screening area waiting for my friends. After several minutes, a TSA official asked me what I was doing. I told him and he walked away. Thirty minutes later, still waiting for Ann, I now stood with three women of color. Another TSA official approached and told us that due to security reasons we were not allowed to wait in the screening area. We needed to wait for our friend beyond the rope barrier.

Why was there no “security reason” when a white man sat alone in the screening area but suddenly there is such a reason when that white man is in the company of three women of color?

“Damn, Tom, you’re always talking about race – it isn’t always about race.”


I grieve today for Trayvon’s parents. My heart aches for their loss. As a father, there are few tragedies I can imagine that approach the severity of losing one’s child. I acknowledge that it can happen to anyone. But in my family, it won’t happen to my children because of the color of their skin.

This is the real tragedy of Trayvon Martin. This is the American Wound that remains unhealed.

Several years ago Bruce Springsteen caught a lot of grief for his song American Skin, written after the shooting death of Amadou Diallo in New York. Bruce played the song for the first time on his new tour just tonight in Tampa, Florida. As stated on Backstreets, “The performance was offered without comment, but it was patently obvious that the killing of Travyon Martin was the impetus for the song’s appearance, with this show the band’s only visit to Florida during the first leg of the tour.” Though Trayvon Martin was killed by a “wanna-be” and not a real police officer, the words of the song ring true once again.

Is it a gun?

Is it a knife?

Is it just skittles?

This is your life.

It ain’t no secret, no secret my friend. You get killed just for livin’ in your American Skin.

But only if you aren’t white.


(note: I inserted the word “Skittles” into the lyric excerpt in place of “a wallet” – which is what Diallo was carrying when he was killed)

14 responses to “Trayvon Martin: thoughts from a white parent”

  1. andy3333 says:

    I cannot stop thinking about all of the Whites, who have been murdered by blacks, because they were in the wrong place at a certain time, or because they refused to give the blacks what they wanted, or just because they were White.

    This week, Sinead O`Connor made a statement regarding the Trayvon/Zimmerman affair. She wrote:

    “For those out there who believe black people to be less than pure royalty…"

    “When you dishonor the the utter glory and majesty of black people, you lie."

    Here is a small, incomplete list of White people who have been exposed to the royalty and majesty of the negro:

    • Patricia Royce says:

      Andy, I can understand why you don't allow your face to be revealed with your post. The subtext here is:
      Blacks are dangerous. Black people kill white people. Black people don't have the same rights because of the first two statements.

      To those of you who are despite all reason and logic, let alone compassion – are determined to see this only through the prism of your racism…..the only answer here? No racism. If you felt the same love and compassion for your black brothers and sisters as you do for your own race, this statement would never have been made.

      • Scott says:

        Patricia, I believe that blacks murder whites at a higher precentage then vice versa, not to mantion blacks murdering other blacks. Personally, about 2/3 of the knife wounds in my back were from blacks, who've made up maybe 10% of the ppl I've known. I've been treated very rudely by many of them. and threatened by some., and once in a black owned restaurant, not only did I get substandard service, but I was threatened with bodily harm and was cussed out right in front of kids when I complained. I was hopelessly outnumbered, or I would've fired back. And I do believe it's cos I"m white. And all of the above was cos I treated blacks the same way I treat whites. And if blacks aren't as big as troublemakers as whites, kindly explain Jesse Jackon's remark: "I had a dream that I was in a dark alley in the middle of the nite, heard footsteps and feared for my life, furned around and saw a wihte face, and was relieved".

  2. Tom says:

    I appreciate you reading my post. I take issue with what I believe is your overall point. The issues you raise are significant enough that I've written a new post in response to your comment.

  3. […] response to my March 23 post — “Trayvon Martin: thoughts from a white parent” — a reader posted the following comment: I cannot stop thinking about all of the […]

  4. […] response to a March 23 post at my Inheriting the Trade blog — “Trayvon Martin: thoughts from a white parent” — a reader posted the following comment: I cannot stop thinking about all of the Whites, who […]

  5. Concerned says:

    Black, white, green or purple, neither party was innocent. Tray on had a history of not being so perfect, and Zimmerman had no business with a gun. There are no winners here. It's not racial, it's American!

    • ChrisGuest says:

      YEP!! You got that right, Concerned…and we all SHOULD BE! The "good old American Way" : if every problem looks like a nail, walk around being a hammer ! What right do we have to carry handguns and assault weapons? Should this all truly be our Legacy? We shoot CHILDREN no matter what color, no matter where they are…even in their schools.
      Especially in their schools.
      I am sad that I don't have the chutzpa to travel in Europe ever again…. in the year 2000 I already felt myself "the ugly American" ….how much worse it would be today. We should perhaps not be so laissez faire about the American Way.

    • Ronnie Brown says:

      there are no "winners" here?…neither party was "innocent"?…so how did Mr. Zimmerman determine that Travon's "reputation" made him worthy to be killed?

      your personal bias causes you to twist reality beyond recognition…

      • ChrisGuest says:

        Is it not amazing what Total Apathy has done to this country of freedom-loving citizens?? Poor choice of words, I apologize….no small amount of Citizenry exists where children and adults are shot EVERY # HOURS. Where has our Shame gone?

    • valerie says:

      Wow, now you are again trying the victim, The only aggressor was the one with a gun!

  6. Nat Irvin says:


    first time reading your space but I think you're making a difference here. Cheers for a the future.

  7. Pete says:

    No matter which side you come down on regarding the verdict and everyone seems to have a side, it is time that for usto have a national discussion on race. In the south, where I live, race continues to be a cancer that goes into remission for a while and then returns when issues like this case arise. We need a cure!

  8. […] Trayvon Martin: thoughts from a white parent (12) Scott: Patricia, I believe that blacks murder whites at a higher precentage then vice… Nat Irvin: Tom, first time reading your space but I think you're making a… valerie: Wow, now you are again trying the victim, The only aggressor was the one with… ChrisGuest: Is it not amazing what Total Apathy has done to this country of… Ronnie Brown: there are no "winners" here?…neither party was… Search: […]

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Copyright 2012 by Thomas Norman DeWolf | Website: James DeW. Perry