No matter the mother, she cannot ignore this story.
It begs for your attention. So, put your parent hat on, sit your children down, and explain -- if you dare -- how a pack of Skittles and a hoodie can get them killed.
Explain Trayvon Martin. Explain George Zimmerman.
Many mothers have already had this conversation. For them, it's called "the talk," and it sits right alongside the birds and the bees chat. It goes a little something like this:
You are black in America. Society will not let you forget it, so don't you forget it. People will not like you because of that; in fact, they will fear you. You will be maligned and marginalized, so beware at all times. Watch what you say, and don't do anything stupid.
This isn't fair? Yeah, life's not fair. But, don't let it get you down. Let it inspire you. Be smarter. Be better. Be humble, too. Because many people came before you, and died, so that you could have this chance you're getting. So, if you forget everything else I told you, don't forget where you came from.
Set to repeat.
I'm 32, my sister is 29, and my brother is 22, and my mother is still re-affirming "the talk." Times may be different, but it still rings true, unfortunately. Ask Trayvon Martin's mom.
Trayvon, a black teenager, was walking around his parents' gated community in Sanford, Fla., when he was shot and killed a month ago. He was wearing a hooded sweatshirt, commonly called a hoodie. He had a pack of Skittles, an iced tea and a cell phone. In New York City, a "Million Hoodie March" took place Wednesday to bring more attention to the story.
Georgia Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch leader, saw Trayvon and some kind of confrontation ensued. Police were called. Before it was all over, Zimmerman had shot the unarmed youth. He hasn't been arrested. He says it was self-defense, using Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law. Zimmerman proponents say he's a nice guy.
I don't know who was and wasn't the aggressor. I wasn't there, and we do not have all the facts. Every time I turn around, there's another dizzying news account about all of this. Social media is all over it. A grand jury will convene April 10; the federal government is swooping in, as well.
Sanford, Fla., isn't looking too good on the map right now.
But, even if you take the element of race out of it, you're still left with an unarmed, dead teenager. You're still left with what we've become very good at here in America -- preconceived notions.
So, what do we tell any of our kids?
Don't go to corner stores? Don't walk around by yourself? Don't wear sweatshirts? Don't pack Skittles, pack pepper spray? Don't leave the house? Don't do anything that could bring attention to you, period? Just, don't, OK?
Add to that list: don't play in the street, don't talk back, don't play with fire, don't eat too much sugar, don't forget sunblock, don't hit your sister, don't stay out late, and any other "don't" you can scrounge up, and pretty soon, there's nothing to do.
I think the overall message is clear. We want to, but we cannot protect our children from everything. Anything at any time could happen to them that is completely out of our control.
The best, it seems, we can do is to teach them to be good people who value the lives of others -- even if they are walking around in a hoodie with Skittles in their pockets.
So, let's hear it. What long-held advice do you give your children? How do you teach them about pride and prejudice? (Any parent can respond.)