Every night, my mother wakes up in the middle of the night several times to check up on us. She makes sure we’re fast asleep and if not, she gives us a stern look, indicating that it is way past our bedtime. She did this more frequently when my brothers and I were younger, but perhaps she made a habit of it. She still does it today. And when I lived with my grandparents, my grandma did the same thing.
Growing up, I found this routine checkup annoying. I felt they were invading my privacy. I could stay up as long as I wanted, I thought.
I was young and selfish, although I can hardly say I’m any more mature or less selfish today. I guess I never thought about why they checked up on us.
Tonight, after experiencing the George Zimmerman trial’s verdict through social media and otherwise, I was reminded of my mother’s constant need to know where we were at all times and call us whenever we went out.
I can only imagine the comfort of knowing that your kids are safe and sound.
My mother loves me; I cannot deny that even if I wanted to. My father does too, and so do my brothers and friends. Trayvon Martin was loved too. He was loved by friends and family and God knows how many other people.
While I’ll never know whether or not his mother checked up on him in the middle of the night, I know that she’ll never get the chance to again.
This summer, I thought we won a sure victory when the New York City Council passed the Community Safety Act. As an intern for CAAAV, I helped talk to councilmembers and convince them to vote for it. The CSA has two bills: Intro 1079 to ban discriminatory profiling and Intro 1080 to establish NYPD oversight through an inspector general in the Office of Investigation. We stayed up until 3 a.m. watching 34 councilmembers support Intro 1079 and 40 councilmembers support Intro 1080. The bills passed with veto proof majorities.
We celebrated. Barring any major setback, New York City will have laws that ban racial (and other biased) profiling. This was a major victory for civil rights, civil liberties, men and women of color, the LGBTQ community and countless other communities.
But it doesn’t mean racial profiling is over. In Arizona, people still get pulled over for looking un-American, as if that means anything. Stop and Frisk is still a tactic used by the NYPD. And men like George Zimmerman still regularly profile black and brown youth because they fit the profile of a criminal.
In the aftermath of the shootings at Sandy Hook elementary, I kept hearing people say that they’re going to hug their kids a little tighter that night. If I’m not mistaken, the President of the United States probably said that too. I hope they did. I hope they still do. We need to make sure every child knows they are loved and supported because they live in a world where someone can get away with killing a person without sitting a day in prison.
I am not Trayvon Martin. I’m a privileged Asian American who has never been followed, never been stopped and frisked and never been thought to have done something wrong. But so many of our brothers and sisters are. My Muslim American, Arab American and Middle Eastern American friends are stopped. My black and Latino friends are stopped. This is a harsh reality of the world we live in today, where security is used as justification for harassment.
I don’t want my children to live in this kind of world.
When I have beautiful, loving children of my own, I’m going to hug them tight. I’ll tell them I love them. And I’ll check up on them every night too. Perhaps it will give me solace the way it gives my mother solace.
Rest in peace and power, Trayvon.