By NICK CHILES
It’s been a year since Trayvon Martin pierced our consciousness.
So many brutal, unforgettable stories have shocked our senses since last February. So many young people have been unforgivably taken from us. Jordan Davis. Aurora. Newtown. Hadiya Pendleton.
It has been a year that may even bring about some changes in the way the nation views and treats gun violence. Maybe. It still remains to be seen whether our lawmakers will have the courage to actually change the laws that govern how easily Americans can blow each other away.
Of course, the Trayvon story is still in the media, as we follow all the pre-trial dramas of George Zimmerman. When he actually goes on trial for the murder of Trayvon, shining a very public spotlight on the irrationality of Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, the case will jump onto the front pages again.
As others have noted, MyBrownBaby was one of the first media sources in the country to note the larger implications of Trayvon’s murder. We helped to put the story on the front pages. When my wife Denene showed me a wire service report out of Florida on a press conference held by Trayvon’s parents, who were trying to bring attention to the fact that Zimmerman still hadn’t been arrested two weeks after he shot their son to death, I immediately thought about my own son. He is a young black male who had been pulled over by police in our subdivision several times by police; we had gotten nervous emails from neighbors in the subdivision reporting that there had been a couple of burglaries. Those were all the steps that could lead to something tragic. I knew I had to pen something meaningful, quickly. After I did, sites like The Root soon followed suit.
After Trayvon was killed, his parents wanted to make sure that other parents saw their own children when they saw Trayvon. But it wasn’t necessary for them to push the matter with us. At MyBrownBaby, we had already made that mental turn.
For black parents, Trayvon never leaves us. He is always there, in the backs of our minds, as a reminder of what can happen to our black male child when he leaves the house. Or, these days, when adorable girls like 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton can get gunned down while hanging in the park, we have to worry about our girls, too. Trayvon and Hadiya and Jordan Davis, who also was shot and killed in Florida, and many others who have been lost since last February all become lodged deep in the psyches of black parents. This is something we have been living with for generations in the U.S.—every generation is haunted by its own brutal killing, from Emmett Till to 4 little girls in Birmingham to Yusuf Hawkins to Trayvon.
It is clear to me that Trayvon’s name doesn’t have to be in the headlines to occupy a permanent place in my mind. His kind, sweet face will always stare back at me inside that gray hoodie. As long as I have occasion to worry about the plight of black boys in America, Trayvon will remain a part of me. And I am sure I am not alone. For many of us, Trayvon’s name will stand for innocence stolen. Promise lost. The need for all of us to protect our young ones from the jittery hand of a frightened stranger.
And there’s still quite a bit of this: Outrage. Trayvon Martin will stand for that, too.
1. Teenager Killed in Florida by Neighborhood Watch Brings Terror To My Heart
2. The Nation Is Watching: the Killer of Trayvon Martin MUST Be Arrested (UPDATE)
3. 911 Tapes In The Trayvon Martin Killing Reveal He Begged For Help; Zimmerman Shot Twice (UPDATE)
4. Another Black Boy, Another Senseless Murder When Will It Stop?
Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.
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Why have you not shown a more whole picture of this situation by showing more recent pictures of Trayvon? Why don’t you give us a real glimpse into his life? Show us his tweets, for example. Will that perhaps tarnish the image you are projecting for this young man? Looking at all of his life, we will find the true dilemma we face in Black America: that we are teaching our children to be victims— not self-made, successful, productive, responsible, loving people who are victors over a system that’s failing in droves—no. Sadly we are teaching them to be victors by guilt and coercion. By writing this post, you are making him to be some kind of racial hero like MLK, when, in fact, he was just another statistic Dr. King wanted to prevent– another product of our failure as a society to teach our children that our rights are only as important as the responsibilities that walk hand in hand in them in perfect harmony. Dr. Ben Carson is a wonderful example of the success of one mother who did what was right to prevent her boys from becoming just another statistic. She, who couldn’t read herself. Let’s take a lesson from her and from Dr. Carson, who has given his life to help others, and to helping young people (via recognition and generous scholarship) who want to give their lives in the same manner. Please, do some study and show us ALL of Travon Martin…let us learn from him and the sad legacy he leaves behind. And then, hawk out great examples of people like Star Parker who’ve risen from the ashes of entitlement to the stardom of faith, self-sacrifice, study, and good old fashioned hard work, yielding a kind of success that those who choose to be victims can only envy. Research their lives and their accomplishments and then, come back and give a whole report; one that’s honest and revealing so that we can begin sowing hope and anticipation for the sky-high potential for a future that once was only a dream. The answer is there; not in grieving over a figment of our creation based on one picture, and a lot of emotional wishes that never really were. God bless you, Brothers and Sisters. The choice is yours.
So, are we all supposed to believe that Trayvon Martin deserved to die because he didn’t fit into YOUR image of what a black teenager should look like or how he should dress? Did he deserve to be shot because he said a few irresponsible things on Twitter? Are you seriously suggesting that he should be laying in a grave because he did what teenagers do? I’m finding it really hard to follow your logic here.
Of course we as a people want ALL of our children to dress more dapper, to use social media responsibly and to be perfect kids who make perfect choices. But teenagers are human. Yes, even African American ones. Yes, even Trayvon. THAT is what this post is about. It’s about empathy. Compassion. A parent’s love for ALL of our children. And understanding that perfection should never, ever be a prerequisite for breathing. If that was the case, ALL of us would be in our graves.
As for why this post shows Trayvon in his hoodie and not in whatever other picture you had in mind: We here at MyBrownBaby, who helped to drive the story when this young man was gunned down in the street after being profiled, recognize that the symbol that will forever be a part of the Trayvon Martin story is a hoodie—the article of clothing that George Zimmerman used as justification for following Trayvon through his father’s neighborhood. (Well, one of them anyway.) From a journalistic perspective, this picture perfectly illustrates that symbol. Now, if you want to go for something different and show this young man in a different way, I invite you to start your own blog, have your own discussion and run whatever pictures you choose.
Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate your perspective.