March 22, 2012

We are ALL Trayvon Martin

Over the past week, the Trayvon Martin murder has mined the depths of black fear and unearthed an age-old human rights issue.  I would argue, though, that this tragedy strikes at the core of America's most polarizing and most urgent issue.  As the phrase has been coined this week, "We are all Trayvon Martin."


We are all Trayvon Martin because those of us who are parents of black male children have often receded into those dark thoughts of what could happen to our precious children when they are out in the world without our protection.  Every black parent in America has had "the Talk" with their sons.  For those of you who don't know, "the talk" goes like this:

 "The world" does not love you, my son.  In fact, the world perceives you, your black body, your corporeal self as just that - a body - a body without a soul, without history, without beauty, talent, personality, integrity, intelligence, family, love, and a bright future.  The world perceives you as a menace, a monster, a "blind accident of evolution," a criminal, a fiend, and a terroristic threat that must be exterminated on sight.  Your body, my son, is a representation of white fear and rage.  

And as we have "the Talk" with our beautiful boys, they go through the stages of grief:  anger, denial, bargaining, and acceptance.  When we see the shock on our son's faces and the blissful innocence of childhood fade from their eyes, we fight back the tears - tears that are born from the realization that we must release our children into a world of rage that we did not create and we have not been able to change.  Unlike other parents, we are forced to train our children to be aware that they are perceived as dangerous threats and to act accordingly.  This is the coming-of-age moment for our black sons.


So when I heard about Trayvon Martin, a beautiful boy, who reminds me of my own sons, nephews, and cousins, I instantly and uncontrollably shed tears.  He could have been my son, I thought.  He is my son.  He is all of our sons.  We are all Trayvon Martin.


When George Zimmerman went hunting that night like a predator in search of black male prey, he found someone's beautiful son, someone's hopes, someone's dreams, and someone's joy.  And, with one brutal, fell swoop, George Zimmerman snuffed out a mother's child, a father's legacy, and a family's hope.  Zimmerman (even if he isn't white) was motivated by the persistent white rage and white racism that has scarred and plagued America since its inception.


And if that wasn't tragic and heart-wrenching enough, Zimmerman has been allowed, by a racist local judicial system, to act with impunity, to act with permission and local sanction.


This cannot happen.  This is not a black problem.  This is an American problem.  This is a human problem.  So, if you are not a racist, and you do not believe that all black men are simply criminals and monsters waiting to attack the "good white people" of America, you should be just as outraged, just as heart-broken, just as sad, just as afraid to live in a country that would not only allow this to happen, but encourages it to happen daily in its vitriolic, xenophobic, racist rhetoric.


"Get up!"  "Stand up!"