The sympathy (not empathy) and outrage (not action) of many persons of my class and race in response to the killing of Trayvon Martin and acquittal of George Zimmerman is somewhat irksome to me. And it provides me with an opportunity to be self-righteous in feeling but perhaps helpful in writing. One young black man is killed by one non-black young man who is then not found guilty of a crime and a wailing and wringing of hands abounds in the media and social network world.
Here’s another reality. Young black men are killed by guns held by other young black men far, far too often in a nation that claims to be just and among people of faiths who claim to be compassionate. This reality happens invisibly or nearly so. Certainly, it pales to near-invisibility in the bright light of responses to the Martin-Zimmerman incident.
Where is the outrage over the daily deaths and systematic injustice visited upon family after family of color and poverty? Where is the outrage over the murder of young men and women who threatened no one, whose deaths engendered no frustration over “stand you ground” laws? Where is the lament over the number of young black men who spend time incarcerated by a system that disfavors persons of color and poverty in a nation that has the highest rate of incarceration of its citizen than anywhere else in the world!
Let us be sad at the death of Trayvon but let some of us be rigorous in judgment of ourselves, our passivity and participation. The system that led to his death was not the Florida criminal justice system and “SYG” laws. That’s where it ended. This death, like far too many before it and far to many that will follow, was the product of the systemic racism of America that makes it hard for families of poverty and color to hold together, that manifests itself in harmful and lethal violence that has become the norm, that pushes children to arm themselves against one another.
This is not my life. The lives of 17 year-old urban black men like Trayvon Martin are so far from my life to post anything even hinting of identification is…whatever is beyond hypocrisy. My life, my self, is much closer to the racist fear of George Zimmerman. Let those who truly suffer this system’s sin hold signs that say “We are all Trayvon!”, but let us who are far and fearfully removed from their lives whisper to ourselves, “We are all George Zimmerman.”