Trayvon Martin and the Myth of Post-Racial America

26 Mar

It’s been a long time since I’ve blogged here. Not that there’s been a shortage of subjects to blog about, more a shortage of time to write about everything. Here it goes:
RIP Trayvon Martin
Today marks one month since Trayvon Martin was murdered and his killer is still free. In the month that’s passed the story has received a lot of attention, reaching a nationwide fever pitch last week. That may be because of the 911 tapes released by the police department, one of the gunman, George Zimmerman and the other of the neighbor whose backyard Trayvon was killed in. In the latter tape you can hear the last terror-filled moments of Trayvon Martin’s life. He screamed for help, armed only with a pack of skittles and an iced tea. Listening to that 911 call broke my heart, as I’m sure it did for the millions of people who’ve listened to it since its release and it made me want to do something.

Since I started getting vocal about this case, I’ve been accused of buying into media hype, being brainwashed by the liberal media, and all sorts of phrases that are essentially ways that people tell others that they don’t know what’s going on and to shut up. But I refuse to shut up. I may not be a lawyer, law enforcement officer, or have access to the intimate details of the case but this is what I know:

This is about justice. As Dr. King famously wrote as he sat in a Birmingham, Alabama jail cell “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Justice is a sacred tenant our country was founded on, it’s even in the pledge: “With liberty and justice for all.” Trayvon Martin has not received justice. He was ostensibly unjustly gunned down on the street, left in the morgue for 3 days unidentified by police while his family searched for him, and his killer still walks free today. George Zimmerman has been left to his own devices, free to destroy the evidence of what happened that night. We may never know exactly what happened that night, but the miscarriage of justice started as soon as George Zimmerman began pursuing Trayvon Martin.

But this is not just about Trayvon Martin, it’s about all the men and women of color who are killed, maimed, threaten and otherwise oppressed for being who they are. It’s not just about George Zimmerman, his race (PS there’s no chromosome in minority DNA that precludes them from being racist, just saying), ideology, or background.

This is about us. All of us.

This is about the racial prejudices each of us holds in our hearts, sometimes consciously, mostly subconsciously. After the election of President Obama, people speculated that we lived in a post-racial America. Quite the contrary, racism is not dead, it’s alive and well in the hearts of most Americans and it’s given power by the trick that we’ve played on ourselves in thinking that we’ve moved past it.

Each of us need to take responsibility for the prejudices that we have in order to move our country in the right direction. We must be vigilant of not only the actions of others but our own beliefs and actions.

The act of wearing a hooded sweatshirt is not a crime and it’s asinine to blame the hoodie (ahem, Geraldo). I went to a Million Hoodies rally for Trayvon in DC this weekend, as I rode the Metro into downtown I looked around trying to figure out who was headed to the rally. It was rainy and dreary and almost everyone was wearing a hoodie. It was then that I realized, I could have been Trayvon. When I walked up to freedom plaza I saw thousands in hoodies, just like me, standing in the rain and showing their support for the family of Trayvon Martin. It was an inspiring sight and it reminded me that we are all Trayvon. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time and happened to be the wrong color for George Zimmerman.

We cannot afford to let this go out of the nation’s memory. We cannot afford to let Trayvon Martin’s murder go unpunished and untalked about. He is only one of thousands who are victims of hate. There are hate crimes that are committed in this country on a daily basis. Last week, a muslim mother of five was beaten to death in her own home with a note next to her broken body that said something to the effect of “Go back to your country.” We cannot continue to operate with the assumption that racism has been dealt with. The longer we go without admitting to ourselves that racism is still a problem in our country, the more difficult it will be to rectify. And we cannot lose sight of the fact that a 17 year old, who was just at the beginning of his life is no longer here with us. He’ll never go to college, get married, have babies, or do any of the things that he aspired to do.

It’s important as a nation that we pursue justice, not just for Trayvon but for all.

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