On today’s “To the Point” we talked about guns, race and story of Trayvon Martin, a black teenager who was shot last month while carrying Skittles and an iced tea. One of our guests was Mary C. Curtis, a journalist who wrote a piece for the Washington Post’s “She the People” blog called “Trayvon Martin Should Be Every Mother’s Son.” I spoke with her before she went on air about the “rules” for raising a black child in America. (Listen to an excerpt from her interview with Warren below).
Mary C. Curtis: You teach them when they’re young. You don’t want them to be paranoid; you want them to be safe. Don’t move, don’t run…. My son grew up in an integrated community. You’re the one the police offer will go after. An authority figure is not always your friend, it’s best to be respectful. If you’re ever picked up, do not talk, just call me.
We live in a nice neighborhood. He was home from Yale and went out to take a break and he was stopped by a police officer. He gave him a ticket for going through a stop sign, which he said he didn’t do. It’s so frustrating. It’s not like he had his Yale diploma hanging out of his pocket.I can’t get this story of out my mind… the whole sense that you’re under suspicion if you’re a black male. Police tested Trayvon for drugs and checked to see if he had a record; these are the assumptions that came into play, the fact that he was taken as a “John Doe” and his dad was a mile away… On Cable TV, you always see young white women and kids in peril. You never see young black men in peril. It’s weighing on my heart – and I’m a journalist and I don’t usually do this.
CS: Why did it take so long for the mainstream media to pick this up?
Mary C. Curtis: It was not a big story, because these kinds of “young back kids killed” is not a ratings grabber. In this case you have minority media, social media, websites, bloggers and people in the media. Don Lemon, Al Sharpton who have shows and can make that leap to mainstream cable networks. The so-called “main stream media” were late. I heard it when it started to make the news… Right before I had a sense, it was on Tom Joyner’s radio show. Black urban radio is huge. Warren Ballentine has a great listenership. These things are featured on these shows, I heard about the petition. You hear about these things. I think I heard about it just before it made the evening news.
I hope this changes and maybe it does and maybe it doesn’t. I do hope it changes the way media makes news decisions. Our president is African America – our president in a hoodie jogging down the street – someone might think he’s suspicious. Late last night my niece in Baltimore had a little boy. And that’s such a joyous occasion, little black male kid and he’s the cutest thing and then they hit 12 and they aren’t so cute anymore. Things have gotten better, but you still have that legacy.
I would like to tell my son things have gotten better, but I don’t want him to lose his instincts.
Below: Curtis talks with Warren and Dr. William Cross, Professor in the Department of Educational and Clinical Studies at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. (You can hear the whole “To the Point” here.)