My son was killed last month. Actually, my two sons, my three grandsons and all the sons of black mothers and fathers in America were killed — again — when Trayvon Martin was shot dead on Feb. 26.
But, in truth, all the sons were already dead when they were named “Toby.” But that’s another story, for another time.
More than 30 years ago, I was given one word, “magnanimous,” to use to prepare and deliver a four-minute speech as a requirement for graduation as Toast Mistress. There were more than 100 people in the room and I was nervous but confident. I had prepared well and had rehearsed.
I don’t remember the speech verbatim but I do remember making the case for the life of black people in this country being based on our having an overdeveloped magnanimous nature.
For the record, I was recorded at 3 minutes 40 seconds and froze before I could fill in the remaining time with anything. I won no prize that day but the word “magnanimous” has stuck with me and it haunts me at every act of violence perpetrated against black folks, a constant reminder.
Being black in America requires a continuing education program on how to improve on your magnanimity.
According to the dictionary: “magnanimous, def: generous in forgiving an insult or injury; 2. showing noble sensibility; high minded.”
Let’s look at the meaning of “noble.” I like the reference to the #2 dictionary listing: “of, belonging to, or constituting a hereditary class that has special social or political status in a country or state (aristocratic).”
Since we don’t have nobility in this country, and certainly no one is born into an aristocracy, I contend that because of the conditions under which blacks have had to survive in the United States of America, we have developed our own brand of nobility that is passed on in our DNA and that it demands that we carry ourselves through daily insults, psychological attacks and general beat downs earned simply from just being with a highly refined degree of nobility.
Hence, the swagger, the rap, the attitude of invincibility — pulling up a hoodie, pulling pants down — that our black males inherit and exhibit as a show of nobility. These are survival adaptations that either get you over or get you killed.
What’s a black male to do in America?
There is an old adage that suggests that black mothers (fathers also?) love their sons and raise their daughters. The love referred to here is what I, and so many others, feel in the aftermath of these mass murders of our sons.
It is a love so large that it extends to every black male child who has to walk the gauntlet of being a black male in America that is so well documented — in song, verse, novels, social commentary and now the nightly news.
What’s a black mother (and father) to do? Hide them away until age 21? Arm them? Teach them to hate? Make them more fearful and paranoid (yes, someone is trying to kill you); castrate or neuter them? Silence them? Make them call themselves Toby?
I remember praying every day that my two sons would get home safely when they were teenagers. They have shared many stories with me about their near misses and I have been blessed that they survived.
But a part of them was killed with each insult to their character, each question of their motives in a suspicious stop by a police officer, each mistaken independent foray out into the world — finding themselves alone, and away from the protection of the group.
Our black male children are an endangered species; they have been and will continue to be if this nation continues to deny its racial peculiarity.
President Barack Obama said that if he had a son he would look like Trayvon. By making that statement, Obama made Trayvon your son, too. Yes, we can all be a part of the answer to these haunting issues and lingering questions.
Some can march. Some can help write new laws. Some can help form the neighborhood “watch out there sucker” patrols. Some can teach the black males survival strategies (role models?).
All of you can love, and practice your noble and magnanimous nature. It drives the enemy crazy!
Antonia Williams-Gary is a consultant with Miami-based Savings and Grace Enterprise. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo: James Forbes/For South Florida Times
SOLIDARITY: State Rep. Cynthia Stafford, D-Miami, consoles Ronald Fulton, Trayvon Martin’s uncle during rally in Liberty City on March 21.