Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Shot Heard Round the World…..Trayvon Martin Revives Tension Surrounding Race in America

The Shot Heard Round the World…..Trayvon Martin Revives Tension Surrounding Race in America

On February 25, 2012 the world was at ease.  Families ate, children played and all was well.  Surely there were deaths that day and surely there were births. Undoubtedly someone was murdered, raped, robbed. And just as surely someone was married, someone went on their honeymoon and someone was proposed to.  Yes, February 25th was a day just as any other.  The Earth was as it should be and as it “normally” is.  No one knew… one knew that in 24 hours…there would be a gunshot….there would be a teenage boy with skittles….there would be a 911 call……and more than that….the scab covering the wounds of America’s racial prejudices and profiling of the past would be ripped off and bleeding out of control.

 That day, February 26, 2012, we took a step backward as a nation.  Instead of a healing country that is taking steps day by day into the future of racial harmony, we once again found ourselves faced with an issue that seems to be at the root of our foundation.  The death of an unarmed, 17-year old, African American child named Trayvon Martin would spark outrage worldwide and highlight the still existing issues surrounding race and racial profiling in America today. Martin’s death  illustrates that though the days of slavery and Jim Crow are decades behind us, the divide between races is still prevalent in our society and that while most days as a country we hide it well it has never really gone away.  Unstable race relations has plagued our republic since its inception and seems to be a never ending saga. 

I’m not writing this blog to discuss the case.  We know what happened. It’s been reported on to death.  Marting was walking home from the corner store with skittles and tea when the neighborhood watchman, George Zimmerman, thought he looked suspicious, began to follow him and called 911.  The 911 operator instructed Zimmerman to stand down and he did not.  Some sort of a scuffle ensued and an unarmed teen was shot and killed and his race played a big role in it.  Zimmerman claimed self-defense and the DA was slow to prosecute.  The country was outraged and the media caught wind.  Zimmerman is now charged with second degree murder but it may be too late.  Trial will soon tell.  He’ll walk or he’ll go to jail but I think the events leading up to the trial have painted a larger picture or our countries internal issues when it comes to race and the leisureliness of the authorities to take action has left a bitter taste in the mouths of millions. 

Two things apart from a young boy’s death sadden me most about this case….

First, the media released the above picture of a young Trayvon in this red Hollister shirt though he appears to be much younger in age than he was at the time of his untimely death.  They chose that picture instead of the more age appropriate picture of him on the left in which he has tattoos and gold teeth, to which I ask……..WHY DOES IT MATTER? Please posit this question if you will, no matter which picture was released do the facts change? They do not. A 17year old unarmed boy was shot and killed. Does what he looked like make a difference to the American people? Is he no less deserved of justice with gold teeth than he is in a hollister shirt? This is the exact same person.  Why did the media choose to release the younger photo…..perhaps that is the biggest illustrator of how colossal the problem of racial profiling is.  Even the media felt that by us seeing the picture on the left, we would feel less sympathetic toward a 17 year old unarmed boy than we do when we see the photo on the right.  How sad is that? It’s embarrassing.  It suggests that the moment one clips in a row of gold teeth they instantly turn from innocent to guilty, from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde…I’d hate to think we were really so sheepish.

The second thing that bothers me is that although there is a massive amount of outcry and awareness of the case…beyond Facebook hoodie pictures and status updates….no one is doing much.  I’m not even sure anyone knows what to do.  I honestly don’t have clue.  Everyone is mad…..and everyone wants to help…but no one actually does. We feed off eachother’s energy and our anger multiplies and we hope that someone, somewhere knows what to do and does it.  That has got to be a helpless feeling for the family of this young boy. 

This case has left me unsettled.  So many things about it just went wrong and so much about it has yet to even be dealt with.  As a whole it just leaves me with unanswered questions and a distaste in my mouth.  We have to do better as a society.  We have to learn to live together. Martin has drawn comparisons to the story of Emmett Till. Till was a 14-year old African American boy who lived in Mississippi in 1955 and was lynched for flirting with a white girl.  I mean have we not moved forward from that? My wish for this country is that one day the scars of our broken past completely heel and that we can all grow and prosper as the human race and become more than just the sum of our parts…my hope is that one day we can be whole. 
And those are my inside thoughs.............