Mad About Trayvon: Finding the Right Words To Explain Anger Over ‘Not Guilty’ Verdict To Kids


I think I scared my daughter. Hell, I think I terrified her. When I heard the Zimmerman verdict, I lost it. I yelled the “F” word, then obliterated two of the milk crates my daughter uses to store toys. The strength of my reaction frightened me. I was hit with a rush of memories of Black men taken from this world. Some of them I didn’t know (Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant III, James Byrd); some of them I did (Gordon Arias, Trey Samuels, JaQuan Rice). I flashed back 23 years ago when a bullet entered my flesh. I then became angry with myself because I did not recall a single woman who’d been killed—I know of quite a few.

On the couch, knees pulled up to her chin, I saw my daughter’s eyes wide and wet. She was shaking.

I went into the bathroom, washed my face and returned. I asked for permission to sit next to her. She nodded, and I sat down. I asked her if I could hold her, and she crawled into my lap. I just held her. I wasn’t going to talk until she did.

She bravely asked: “What happened, Daddy? Why are you so mad?”

I was stuck. I have a firm philosophy of “If she can ask, she can know.” I then told her about Trayvon and Zimmerman and why I had such a strong reaction to the not guilty verdict. She connected this to some of the losses she’s already endured and then hit me with, “Daddy? Why do some White people think it is okay to kill Black people?”

I had a choice. Do I just speak from a place of anger and plant in her a seed of hatred and distrust for White people, no matter how friendly they appear? Or do I try to engage a 5-year-old in a nuanced discussion about race, racism, cognitive dissonance, and White supremacy—which she’s already all too familiar with?

No one tells you that as a parent, your word is gospel for your child. Your words make their reality. In that raw and vulnerable moment, I did not want that responsibility. But the responsibility fell to me, and my baby-girl deserved an answer…

See what words Shawn Taylor chose to tell his daughter about Trayvon Martin on

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