"I did my best to teach the master about slaves. Told him a hundred times when he was a boy that it wasn't a black skin that made a man a slave. It's the other skin, the one that grows on the outside, that second hide made of fear and obedience. What a good master does is every once in a while, prick that skin to remind folks that it's still there and always will be. I told him that if a slave was to molt that outside skin, you no longer have a slave. 'Mark my words," I said, 'when a man's not afraid, then he's hoping. And that's when all hell breaks loose.'"
The killing of that young boy is the "prick the skin" reminder to every African American boy - as well as his father/mother/brother/sister/aunt/uncle/grandmother/grandfather etc. - that the fear is very real. Whether that's what Zimmerman intended or not is beside the point...its the reality that has been reinforced once again.
What does it mean to raise an African American child in this country today? It means that once you get over the miriad of ways that the education, health and justice system are filled with inequities, you have to fear the idea of him getting shot while walking home from a trip to the convenience store. There's only so much a parent can do to try to protect their child. So as a white person I try to imagine what its like to be a mother under those circumstances. And that's when I know what a long road we have yet to travel when it comes to racism in this country. The particular bar I set is that we'll know we got there when a mother of an African American boy can sleep soundly at night and leave the fear for her child behind. Until then, I'll brook no talk about a "post-racial America."