The discussions in the media and on line have focused on a variety of perspectives. There have been calls for investigations and arrests and in too many cases calls for caution, so that we do not rush to judgment. The major judgment has already been made and acted upon. Young Trayvon Martin is dead; there was no evidence gathering, no statements taken…just assumptions and tragically misguided and unwarranted action. We have seen too many cases where the Black or Hispanic youth is arrested first, and questions asked later. Maybe.
The good news is that the loss of this young man seems to have touched millions and the parents are receiving much needed support in their quest for justice. The president’s message gently reminded all parents about the senselessness of the act and the critical need for all of us to understand how such a tragedy could have happened.
On Meet the Press on Sunday morning, Ben Jealous, president of the NAACP, his voice evincing both angst and rage, reminded those who haven’t yet connected the dots that this loss is pervasive. The neglect by law enforcement and the lack of justice across this country, he said, in response to the deaths of Black youth regardless of whom or from which race/ethnicity the perpetrator comes is staggering.
The quiet rage that has been rumbling in the Black community is building. Some in the Hispanic communities are looking at the enmity that too often exists among young Blacks and Latinos. Thoughtful and mutually respectful Whites are wondering aloud how this can still be happening. On Sunday’s Meet the Press Doris Kearns, the noted presidential historian spoke poignantly about the youthful innocence reflected in young Trayvon’s face. She likened the situation to that of Emmitt Till! Remember that injustice?
The inequities and disparities are legend. The change since Emmitt Till, former Governor Haley Barbour noted, two generations ago, is that the outrage is so widespread. Even In the face of that he opined, we have to take time to find out what really happened. The question is staggering. . Would that this call for caution could be the same stance when young men of color have a weapon and “defend themselves.”
A man with a gun kills an unarmed teen carrying Skittles and tea! That same man has a history of calls to 911 for exaggerated or unnecessary requests for police assistance. In this instance he failed to heed the warnings of the 911 dispatcher and took matters into his own hands.
From the early days of the history of this country, Blacks have not been valued and or treated with respect. The history of the education system and delivery are just two of the most egregious examples of the historical and unending inequities. Hispanic youth often find themselves in similar situations of Black youth …suspicious by virtue of skin color. Other immigrants have endured hostility to be sure, but the whiteness of their skin ultimately facilitated their assimilation regardless of country of origin.
History repeats and since we haven’t learned the lessons we are still encountering problems getting justice for the loss of innocent Black lives. We have an opportunity to make a difference. We know from the national conversations among many politicians and their followers that fear is pervasive throughout the land due to the demographic changes in the American landscape.
The numbers are our reality. Let’s face them. Let’s talk about feelings and concerns in classrooms, from the pulpit, social and community groups and in other venues as well. We say this country is founded on Christian beliefs but the national rhetoric is contrary to those widely held beliefs. The very notion of a focus on Christian beliefs underscores one of our nation’s major problems. We are a diverse, multicultural country with Americans representing many cultures and religions. Each has tenets embracing mutual respect and understanding.
It is time we practiced what we preach for all of our sakes. Trayvon Martin’s life matters. He cannot have died in vain. WE have an opportunity to correct the course. We have to pay more and better attention to police and judicial proceedings. We have to impress on all of the powers that be at all levels that our lives do matter.
Each time a life is lost let there be justice. In Trayvon’s memory say Amen. Make it so.