Don’t Dress Like a Cholo and Other Things

03.23.12

It’s hard to ignore the slaying of Trayvon Martin. It’s all over the news in every city in America. That the internet and the 24 hour news cycle has made the world smaller is sometimes a good thing. It won’t bring this child back, but perhaps it will spare others.

There was this perfect storm of gun laws and racism that conspired to kill Trayvon. As both a parent and a handgun owner I am disturbed. Florida allows citizens to use deadly force if they reasonably believe they face harm. My understanding is that in California you can use deadly force inside your home. I can’t shoot you on my front lawn… even if… even if… I might be wrong, I’m not a lawyer and I’m also not planning on shooting anyone on my front lawn. In Los Angeles you cannot walk down the street armed without a permit. This is a good thing. We don’t have to fend off hungry bears here.

When I learned to drive my parents taught me the rules of the road and my father taught me the rules of getting pulled over. “Keep your hands on the wheel.” He said, “Don’t be cute and don’t be clever. Take your ticket and say, ‘yes sir, no sir’.” He reminded me that because we were white kids we could drive through places like Beverly Hills and told us about people who were routinely incarcerated during traffic stops, their blackness scared the police. This was all during the reign of Daryl F. Gates, not our city’s finest years.

When we were teens my brother drove a Dodge Dart. He loved that car, it had three on the tree and not much of a starter. It leaked oil onto the cobblestone streets of my mother’s gated community and I’m pretty sure that leak made him love it just a little more. My brother also has black hair and like everyone in the family drives a little too fast. He was late for school one morning and got pulled over on PCH. After issuing the ticket and noting the Bel Air address the officer told my teenage brother that if he didn’t want to get pulled over he should stop looking like a Cholo.

A ticket is nothing. Really.

Something has to change and I suspect it will. I’m an optimist about this because I don’t believe that I live in a country where we go around shooting kids. I won’t believe that.

Worldwide there’s an epidemic of hate and there’s been a massacre in Toulouse. A woman has lost her husband and her two sons to a madman’s bullets. There’s always the sense that “they’d” like to get the Jews. I don’t know who “they” is but they’re always shooting at our kids and our husbands. I wish they’d stop.

I think we’re all culpable though. We talk about bullies and fairness and toss around buzzwords that make you feel like you’ve done something. I’m not seeing people really stand up and say, “It’s never okay to dehumanize another group.”

There’s nothing inherently threatening about a 17 year old black person. Not unless someone told you there is.