Moms discuss 'My 12-year-old son knows he could be Trayvon'
The mothers of these boys talked to CNN about how they discuss race in their homes.
April 12th, 2012
11:41 AM ET

Moms discuss 'My 12-year-old son knows he could be Trayvon'

By Gavin Godfrey and Emma Lacey-Bordeaux, CNN Radio

(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.”

Listen to their conversation and share your thoughts with us in the comments.

soundoff (20 Responses)
  1. steven k.

    Dear cnn why did you remove my post, was it because I spoke truth about your agenda, why allow people to post comments freely if you are to remove them because they may be offensive, well its ok because my point was valid and cnn will still be wrong.

    April 17, 2012 at 6:19 pm | Report abuse |
  2. woof woof

    This just in... Parents are now concerned that Martians may come and abduct their kids...

    CNN has been running a story daily and twisted every spin it to get the hate flowing.

    Fear wins folks so be sure to send your kid out with his hood up at night and ignore anyone and cut thru neighborhoods as this seems logical right?

    April 16, 2012 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse |
  3. woof woof

    I send my two year old ever night with his hood up and I fear he could be the next victum .

    Yep he is the color orange and I know that is considered non Black so that has to be caucasion correct?

    I mean just the other day when he was playing football at the high school and pumping iron and bulking up I had concern but then said hey kid go out to the store and put your hood and cut thru that neighborhood up there. Now if anyone says stop you turn and beat their butt for me.


    April 16, 2012 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
  4. MrJewLoCK

    I really wish some of you people would put as much time and effort into Trayvon being shot for something we will never fully understand to every kid and teen that is killed. For every child that is kidnapped from home, where are the protest for justice? What's wrong with you people?? People are killed everyday from other races, but for some reason this case is getting news coverage. DID HALF OF YOU KNOW WE ARE AT WAR RIGHT NOW? OUR BROTHER AND SISTERS ARE DYING OVER THERE FOR YOU! instead you want to argue over white and black. I am sorry for some of you.

    April 16, 2012 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
    • woof woof

      I totally agree and how did Hispanic and Black become White and Black?

      HOW DOES A 18 year old 175 pound adult who lifted weights and bulked up for football become the 12 year old boy?




      April 16, 2012 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Tom

    I'm sorry, I just don't buy it. First, all sorts of people are identifying with Trayvon Martin, when in fact none of us really know him, or Zimmerman or what realy went on that night. As the facts are becoming public, it may very well turn out that Martin attacked Zimmerman and Zimmerman, much smaller in stature was in fact defending himself against an attacker. If that turns out to be the case, where are all those "it could have been my son" people Including, I'm ashamed to say, our president. Is that what "could have been your son"? Someone who attacks other people? I'm sorry to say this but using this case to illustrate some sort of racial profiling epidemic is a lot of bunk. The key to improving race relations in this country is self reliance. Statistics show a staggering amount more black on black violence, and gang violence than issues like this. Where are the black leaders on that? Why aren't the Al Sharptons and Bill Cosbys and Barack Obamas making an issue out of that? Why aren't there millionwhatever marches to break up gangs, or try to reduce crime in our inner cities and ethnic neighborhoods?

    April 16, 2012 at 9:06 am | Report abuse |
  6. jon

    Trayvon got in to more trouble in school than both my sons. If your son is like Trayvon (skipping school, getting caught with pot, having stolen property in his locker etc) get him some help soon.

    April 15, 2012 at 11:02 am | Report abuse |
  7. pecola

    The mother is right her son could be Trayvon, but most like at the hands of another black male. Most black males are killed by other black mail on a daily basis. Its an epidemic in most cities. Trayvon is a victim of a psycho who will have his day in court. Her son will be a victim of an angry self hater who has no respect for black life not even his own.

    April 14, 2012 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • bobloblaw

      Baby Travon was no victim. He was an attacker who under FL law got what he deserved.

      April 15, 2012 at 12:56 am | Report abuse |
      • juskishi


        April 15, 2012 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
      • sandy

        and who died and left you boss? This is stupid mentality. Wait for the trial, you only know some things.No one deserves to be shot walking home and just because it was latehe gets shot. Because he is black. Let the courts decide the case.

        April 15, 2012 at 11:51 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Tommy

    Idiots, the way you are teaching your kids to act is the way anybody should act regardless of color. You gotta be kidding me. You just figured out to teach your kids to be civilized? You want to say its because they are black? Un real.

    April 14, 2012 at 11:14 am | Report abuse |
    • Max

      If I had to guess, the reason why they haven't bruhgot Robinson up yet is that the Dodgers are planning to make a couple moves. One being the most possible is James Loney. Whether or not Loney is on first directly affects the Sands/Oeltjen/Robinson OF pipeline. Ned's not going to shuffle is veterans around his rookies, it's going to be the other way around whether it's injuries, trades or otherwise.The Dodgers are watching their possible 1B prospects to see what kind of situation they'd be in if Loney hit the road. If Loney gets traded my guess it's to the Dodgers familiar scrap heap The Pirates. Loney's younger and a better hitter than Overbay and PNC is a left-hand hitters park, another selling point for Colletti. Don't expect much in return though. McCourt wants money, not more players right now.If that does happen, I'm guessing you'll see Robinson play LF in no time. Their best other options right now are Oetljen and Gwynn Jr. While decent, they aren't exactly getting chants from the fans.

      September 15, 2012 at 11:42 pm | Report abuse |
  9. ghostface

    Black men and boys must stand tall and confront this idiocy head on. You stand with your backbone straight and look them dead in the eye. I refuse to let my son curtail his movements just to make someone else feel comfortable and non threatening. You can't be ridden like an animal if you refuse to bend over. Teaching boys to act like lowly subordinates run the risk of raising an entire generation of Steppin Fetchits, which is what they wanted all along.

    April 13, 2012 at 9:03 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Lisa

    I can't get past thinking of how it must feel to lose a 17 yr old son in a senseless incident to think about the racial aspect.

    Definitely overbearing to think some families have to prep to avoid it.

    April 13, 2012 at 8:26 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Timmy

    African American Mothers have taught their children..especially (sons) to act a certain way under certain conditions so they would not become victims. In my opinion this practice which started with slavery has set African American Men back. If the African American MALE does not stand up for his children... especially the boys....this will never get better. I for one walk tall and I look everyone in the eye just like my mother taught me and by some that may be taken the wrong way because I am a 240lb black male. Its totally ridiculous and very sad.

    April 13, 2012 at 4:22 pm | Report abuse |
  12. tratt

    I am tall and have always made an effort to look less intimidating to the people around. My sister is fat. She always orders a Diet Coke when we go out to eat because the last thing she would want people seeing is her wolfing down a double chocolate shake with her side of fries. These things are real. They are not fair and they are not right. But we all, in some way, have to act in some way that we normally wouldn't just to appease those around us.

    April 13, 2012 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • matt

      Hah this made me laugh because all the fat people I know drink tons of soda and they tell me "it's diet" as if that's supposed to make a difference. If your sister wants to lose weight tell her to drink water. Diet soda still makes you fat – especially if you *always* order one when you go out. She should be eating healthy for herself not to "appease" others ... in any case, it sounds like she's fat because of her eating habits and her own choices – if that's true, then why is it not fair for people to think that?

      April 14, 2012 at 7:21 am | Report abuse |
      • Kelly

        Haa, your response made me laugh. It had nothing to do with his point... He was making the point that we all "insome way, have to act in some way that we normally wouldn't just to appease those around us." Your response was just some juvenile effort to belittle his sister.

        April 15, 2012 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |