The news coverage of the Trayvon Martin case seems to have slowed down, at least temporarily. As I have mentioned before, the case holds some interest for me, but I don't wish to pass myself off as an expert of some sort. Or as another flame-thrower on the internet. I do wish to talk about some of my personal thoughts.
When I was maybe 22 years old or so, I went to Eugene, Oregon to visit with some friends at the University of Oregon. We had all furthermore been invited, in a drifty, Eugene way, to go to someone else's house for a party. And in a further drifty, Eugene way, me and my two friends, who were both female, got lost and were wandering around the neighborhood, looking for the house in the dark. I was getting nervous and suggested that we go find a telephone and call them up (ten years ago, pre-omnipresent cell phones). But they seemed to be oblivious as to why I was nervous, and just walked up onto people's front yards and down their back alleys, until they finally recognized the house they were looking for.
At the time, it seemed surprising, and now doubly so. One of the "suspicious behaviors" engaged in by Trayvon Martin was looking in the windows of the houses he passed. An infrequent visitor to the apartment complex, he didn't recognize which one of them belonged to his father's girlfriend.
It was already a strong, automatic instinct for me, at the age of 22, that as a male, if I am walking alone after dark, I had to think of myself as a threat. Maybe my female companions could have understood that in the abstract, but the instincts were not automatic.
And while thinking of this, an even older incident came to mind. This one probably happened when I was 12 or 13, before I had hit puberty, when I was still chubby and baby faced. My mother was in the Albertson's in Salem, Oregon, in the checkout line, and I, being young and bored, left the store to go wait by the car. Or maybe my mother had given me her keys to get something from the car. This was 20 years ago, I don't remember the details. But I do remember looking through the parking lot for my mother's car. But since my mother had a common Plymouth sedan, I ran up to the wrong car, looked in the window, and was then challenged by a man in a pick-up truck who asked me what I was doing "prowling around looking at cars". I told him that I was just looking for my mother's car, and that was the end of that incident.
In Tina Fey's book, she talks about going to a workshop by Roselind Wiseman, the author of Queen Bees & Wannabes, with adult women, and them being asked when they stopped being girls and started being women. For many, the answer is that when they are sexually approached, or catcalled, often "in jest", they realize they are no longer a girl.
I think it might be a similar ritual that we stop being boys and become men when we first realize that we can be considered a threat. And it isn't a particularly nice experience, especially since it probably happens to many of us when we are only starting puberty, and realistically don't present much of a threat to anyone. But for whatever reasons, amorphous forces that we can describe as "media" and "society" wants to let preteen boys know that they are now viewed as dangerous, potent threats that must be controlled through violence.
I had some more to add, but for now I will leave it at this.