Trayvon and Civil Rights

The controversy over the trial and acquittal of George Zimmerman has simmered into a national debate over gun laws, “stand your ground laws” and racial profiling. The various issues have splintered the discussion into competing factions and has begun to mute the underlying fact that a 17-year-old African-American child was shot to death. The fact that a black teenaged male was shot is sadly, not new to the American news cycle. Even the fact that this particular victim was not in the midst of committing a crime is only slightly less common.

For African-American men, as President Obama pointed out on Friday (press conference), the experience of being followed, labeled and otherwise viewed as threatening to society is nothing new. What often gets glossed over by the public in general during these crisis debates over racial inequality is the role in which economic injustice plays in the dynamic of such instances. While institutional racism creates wedges of discontent, it is the depravation of economic stability and opportunity, which robs human souls of their connection to the whole of society.

The protests of the 1960s Civil Rights should not be viewed exclusively through the prism of social inequality, but rather the events should be studied for the relief they sought to create. Whether it was sit-ins at luncheon counters, dangerous bus rides through hostile cities, legal challenges to achieve school integration or street marches for garbage workers; each was aimed at gaining economic parity within a society seemingly determined to withhold such equality. It seems only fair to ask whether the sacrifices of our parents and grandparents will fall on deaf ears and if this, and future generations will understand what is needed and move forward.

I were able to ask George Zimmerman one question, in fact I would ask everyone the same question, why did he see Trayvon Martin the way he did? The trial itself was a classic case of turning the victim into a less sympathetic person, who, by his mere presence, contributed to his own demise. Alas, there are those young black men who act in such a manner that perpetuates the negative images and stereotypes; however, that is no excuse for taking someone’s life. It certainly does not avail Mr. Zimmerman the right to suspect, pursue and shoot. That there are those within our racial identity who do not present themselves as model citizens, does not give America license to deny us full membership into the human race, to incarcerate us unfairly, to deny avenues for education; to deny adequate living conditions, adequate healthcare, nutritious food or sustainable working wages.

African-American men need to understand that it is not society’s responsibility to change the stereotype. It is ours. The issue goes beyond baggy jeans, dreadlocks and expensive rims. It is the way we treat our mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, neighbors and friends. It is the way we respect our minds and bodies and the things we feed into both. Let the legacy of Trayvon Martin not be about protests, but progress; about the moment when we became men OF the community, not just in it.



About Richard
I have spent my entire life learning to be a better communicator in in all facets of my life. I have learned as much from my failures as I have from success; laughing, crying and loving along the way. After earning a B.S. in Communications I decided to share what I have learned while continuing my own personal growth. I believe that the better we are to each other, the richer our lives will become.

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