Trayvon Martin and my son

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

I wanted to share a story with you all that I shared first on Facebook this weekend.

My heart and head ache this evening. Israel turned 15 last week and he's having a belated birthday party tonight. He asked me if he and his friends could go outside this evening and play "Cops and Robbers" with his Nerf guns. 

My stomach lurched and cold fingers of fear grasped at my throat when I imagined my dark son, dressed in a sweatshirt, running through the streets of our neighborhood. With a dry mouth and wet eyes, I angrily told him that he could not go outside and play a simple childhood game. 

I hope he knows that I am not angry with him, but I'm infuriated with the world we're raising him in. I'm angry at myself for limiting my son and denying him his youth because I'm petrified of what may happen to him for LWB (living while brown). I'm angry that black and brown boys are always seen as a threat, and never the joyful kids I know them to be. 

The verdict in the Trayvon Martin case has caused so much pain for so many, and our family grieves tonight. We mourn not just Trayvon and his family, but for the loss of innocence and freedom every brown and black kid endures with this verdict.

I know we’re all looking for something to give us hope after the events of this past weekend. I find hope in my children’s eyes. I find hope in working for change every day as a Senator in the Colorado state legislature. I find hope in the kind words friends and strangers have offered up at this difficult time. 

That’s why I’m asking if you’d be willing to share your story. How did you talk to your children about Trayvon Martin? What words have moved or comforted you in the past few days? I think right now, having these conversations about what we can do to make things better is one of the most important things we can do. Would you be willing to share your story with me? 

Click to share your story

I am proud to join with ProgressNow Colorado to share my story, and I hope you will share yours, too.  As a parent, I know the importance of sharing these stories to help keep this important conversation going. 

Thank you so much for your time.

Jessie Ulibarri
Colorado State Senator

20 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Duke Cox says:

    Thank you, Senator, for bringing this discussion our way. I look forward to hearing other stories.

  2. nancycronk says:

    Thank you for your story, Jessie. My sons are 24, 20 and 17, and are white (Jewish). I have given them many lectures about how dangerous it is for any teen to be out at night. The world has gone crazy. Guns are everywhere in this country, and people have been brainwashed to think they should be used against imaginary "bad guys". The harmless pranks my generation did (mostly involving shaving cream, chalk or toilet paper) can now result in over-anxious people strung out on Fox "news" paranoia, killing their neighbors. I have never been able to sleep when my kids are out… ever. Every time they come in at night is another day that goodness and life scored a victory over insanity, paranoia and the gun industry. If my children were brown or black, it would be that much worse.

    We have seen generations of ignorant people reach adulthood in this country. Many were born into poverty with poor nutrition (resulting in less than optimal brain growth) and fed a steady diet of corporate-controlled television brainwashing. Those who survived their poverty and rural education systems have often been affected by Big Pharma's assault on their brains, too. ("Unhappy? Have an itch? Can't sleep? Dump unnatural chemicals into your bodies!") Then, the gun lobby folks hand these people a gun. No wonder this country is in the sad state it is, and so many Americans have seemed to have lost their minds.

    There will be no peace until and unless the gun industry is reeled in, and people are well-nourished and well -educated. That creates a long list of things Democrats need to do to make this world a better place. Until then, our choices are simple but difficult — either move to a place like Canada that values people over money — or stick it out and figh back.

  3. JeffcoBlue says:

    Thank you, Senator Ulibarri. You've got a fortunate son to have you for a dad.

  4. dwyer says:

    I want to echo nancycronk's comments.  We have a kid who is anglo bright white, but we also lived in what was once a inter city Denver neighborhood.  The kids in the neighborhood devised a "neat game."  When it got dark, and the car lights would come down the street, they would duck and pretend to shoot at the car or each other or something….no toy guns…just their hands.  As soon as the "neighborhood elders" saw what was going on, we had to put a stop to it, immediately, for fear of what those drivers would do.  Let alone what the police might do.

    The summer of violence in Denver, 1993, impacted our neighborhood too. Same kid, same color, did not matter.  The police had gang lists…based on zip code, not color.  I don't know who we feared more…the gangs or the police… was a nightmare.    

    We had a teenage boy.  We cry with the Martins.  We know that boys are just a target…and as they get older….they had to be incredibly careful.

  5. roccoprahn says:

    Thank you Senator. We have a 16 year old grandson. Enough hispanic looking to worry me.

    Think about that. What I just said. Our family's worried that our grandson doesn't appear "white enough". We should be.

    Sometimes he walks home from school. He goes to the 7/11, just like any kid. He works 2 jobs in the summer, uses the bus. He goes to school functions with his friends. He's out enough to be targeted.

    We are all Trayvon Martin's parents.

    Bottom line, thank you Senator Ulibarri. Colorado is a world away from Florida.

    Thank God.

  6. Hal J. says:

    Seriously, Jessie: you broke the no-Nerf news to him “with a dry mouth and wet eyes?” If you’re so emotionally weak that you would nearly cry over saying no to a Nerf game, you have NO business holding public office of any kind.

    • mamajama55 says:

      a) Your comment shows that you believe public servants should not have human emotions? You must not be a fan of John Boehner. Welcome to the club.

      b)You don't get why a parent of a dark skinned child would not allow a child to play outside with toy guns? Where have you been for the last 30 years, in a cave?

  7. Hal J. says:

    a) There's a difference between having human emotions and crying at the drop of a hat (or a ballpoint pen…but that's another story).  As for Boehner, I'm not a fan…but then, I'm not a fan of almost any politician. 

    “Political tags — such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth — are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. The former are idealists acting from highest motives for the greatest good of the greatest number. The latter are surly curmudgeons, suspicious and lacking in altruism. But they are more comfortable neighbors than the other sort.”

    ― Robert A. Heinlein

    b) Have you ever seen a Nerf "gun"?  Do you actually think that playing with such a toy in public would put a child in danger, regardless of skin color?

  8. mamajama55 says:

    a) You're imprisoned by some outdated notions of masculinity. Good luck with that.

    a) Welcome to the Curmudgeon Club. This board is full of them. As for me, I'm very comfortable in Heinlein's "idealist" category. I think that good government has a role to play in moving the human race forward. It's never going to be perfect, though. As far as "comfortable neighbors" go, I like having neighbors who look out for each other, and try to make the neighborhood better.  You can save a lot of money on ammunition that way.

    b) I've bought nerf guns for my kids. FYI: Those things HURT! I think that they were recalled soon after they came on the market, due to liability concerns.

    b) I don't feel like doing your research for you this morning, but it's quite easy to find instances of children, not just children of color, banned and punished for bringing toy guns into public places, such as schools or the front yard. We live in a society where, unfortunately, people are afraid of each other most of the time. That is another perk to building relationships with neighbors, though – we tend to not call the police on every little thing. Even curmudgeons can relate to that.

    • Curmudgeon says:

      I have a club?

    • Hal J. says:

      a) I'm not being sexist in the slightest.  I mock a politician of any gender who will, at the slightest provocation, cry like a girl.

      a) I think you're misreading the Heinlein quote; he's speaking of do-gooders who try to control the behavior of others (out of the noblest of motives, no doubt), not those who give a helping hand to the guy next door who's down on his luck.

      b) Nerf guns…hurt?  Are you sure you're speaking of the toys that shoot foam projectiles?  The last time I was hit by a Nerf gun, I could barely feel it.  Perhaps you're thinking of paintball (which does hurt) or Airsoft (which can sting…a little).  In any case, Nerf toys are freely available, as are Airsoft and paintball. 

      b) I spoke specifically of children not being in danger from playing with Nerf toys in public.  I'll stand by that.  Might they get in trouble or banned for doing so?  Sure…but that speaks to the stupidity of those enforcing such punishments, does it not?

      • mamajama55 says:

        a) Denial is not (only) a river in Egypt.

        a) Heinlein, while one of my favorite early sci fi writers, was in fact a sexist a**hole.  His obsession with female breast measurements has only been exceeded by the late, great Robert Jordan. You'll have to find a more modern, progressive sci fi writer if you want to use their philosophy to persuade anyone about public policy.

        b) Nerf guns. Google search: nerf gun recall . 11 entries on the first page. You're welcome.

        b) Shocker. I actually agree with you on this one.



        • Hal J. says:

          a) While I'll grant that Heinlein was sexist by today's standards, I would point out that virtually everyone in the mid-20th Century was a sexist by today's standards…and Heinlein regularly had strong female characters (Empress Star, Grandmother Stone, and let's not forget that in Starship Troopers the starship pilots were women).  As for being an a**hole…I beg your pardon?  What would cause you to disparage his character in that manner?

          a) Robert Jordan?  Blech…politics aside, I my favorite modern SF writer is Stephen Baxter.  For fantasy, Terry Pratchett.

          b) A specific model of Nerf toy, the N-Strike Recon Blaster CS-6, has been recalled.  The fact remains that Nerf guns are, as I said, freely available (as they should be). 

          And you think that it hurts to be hit be a foam Nerf projectile?  Seriously?

          • mamajama55 says:

            a) True. And mea culpa, but I don't care. You started off by condemning the fear and concern of a perfectly good legislator, who was worried that his adorable child would be profiled. Consider my impugning the honor of R A H as payback.

            b) I may have to get my engineer son on here to explain the physics of a nerf projectile fired at full force into tender flesh. On the other hand, he's got better things to do. And so do I.


            • Hal J. says:

              a) You started off by condemning the fear and concern of a perfectly good legislator,

              Debatable, to say the least…I don't consider legislators who try to restrict my Constitutinoal rights to be particularly "good".

              Consider my impugning the honor of R A H as payback.

              And this follows logically…how, exactly?

              b) Who needs an engineer?  You have a three inch long piece of foam impacting your "tender" flesh at a whopping 50 feet per second.  How could that possibly hurt?

              Please don't tell me it would give you a dry mouth and wet eyes… 🙂

  9. mamajama55 says:

    You do now. Use it wisely, grasshopper.

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