Moms Discuss ‘My 12-Year-Old Son Knows He Could Be Trayvon’


By Gavin Godfrey and Emma Lacey-Bordeaux

(CNN) – Christy Oglesby’s column, “My 12 year-old-son knows he could be Trayvon Martin,” stirred a lot of conversation when it published last month.

It drew more than 8,000 recommendations on Facebook and 1,400 comments on the In America blog.

While her son is fearless the way only 12-year-old boys can be, she wrote that she warns him not to run, not to speak too loudly, not to fight back. Because he is black, she worries he will always be a victim and a target.

“His race gives me much more to fear than his fearlessness,” she said.

But we felt like there needed to be even more dialogue about it. We invited Oglesby and her friend, Sandra Bemis, to our studio. Oglesby’s son, Drew, and Bemis’ son, Slater, are best friends; their photo was atop Oglesby’s column. We wanted to have a conversation about how their mothers were raised and how they’ve talked to their kids about race since Trayvon Martin’s death.

When Oglesby wrote about the death of Trayvon Martin, she saw it as a mother — a mother with a black child who will grow to be a black teen and black man. Slater is white, and Bemis said she’d never thought twice about some of the things Oglesby fears most. Oglesby wasn’t writing so much about Martin, but about growing out of prejudice ideals ingrained in some since birth.

Both women detailed their divergent southern backgrounds, one surrounded by black residents of New Orleans, the other among white residents of Nashville.

Oglesby works for CNN in Atlanta, but grew up in Louisiana, raised by a mother who grew up under Jim Crow laws and was involved in the civil rights movement. When busing was implemented to integrate schools, Oglesby remembers being afraid of white kids and how they might interact.

“I didn’t see white people in my neighborhood, I didn’t see white people in my church and I was worried about having to go to school with white children,” Oglesby said.

On the other side of that history, Bemis’ parents and others formed their own private schools in Nashville, Tennessee, when they heard news that black children would be bussed to their public schools.

Bemis said she began to cry halfway through Oglesby’s column.

“I had no idea,” she said. “I didn’t know you had to think about that that much and that just made so… I don’t know, it just turned my heart over.”

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