Every Tuesday in The Minority Report, Drew Dixon takes a look at trends in youth culture and offers some biblical wisdom for navigating them.
You don’t know the other Trayvon Martin. You might know his picture was posted by thousands of people on Facebook because he was confused with the Trayvon Martin who was recently killed by George Zimmerman. All we know about the other Trayvon Martin is that he a 17 year old boy who happens to have a picture of himself in sagging pants throwing double birds on Facebook.
The rapid manner in which thousands of people on Facebook assumed that this was the same Trayvon whose death is all over the news and declared him a “thug” certainly says something about the persistence of racism in our country. Trayvon Martin and his family certainly deserve an apology for this fabrication, but I would go further and say that the other Trayvon deserves an apology too.
I am fairly confident that somewhere out there in the world someone has a picture of me around the age of 17 giving the finger. I am thankful that when I was 17, Facebook did not exist. I am also thankful that my high school friends are kind enough not to post those pictures on the internet.
I was not a good kid at the age of 17. I was, like most 17 year olds, deeply insecure and made a lot of foolish decisions. I was not, however, a thug. The teenage years are a complicated time for most. It’s a time when young people are finding themselves and facing tremendous temptations to find their identity in many different places. The Bible is sympathetic to this difficult time of life. We know that it is a time that carries unique pressures and temptations. Thus Paul encourages Timothy to “flee youthful passions” (2 Tim. 2:22). We also know that it is a time when people contemplate and often engage in rebellion against the authorities in their lives, thus the Psalmist prays “remember not the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me for you are good, O Lord” (Ps. 25:7).
I am glad that my worth as an individual was never weighed based upon pictures taken of me in high school. So the other Trayvon deserves an apology from John David Lee Brown and everyone else who posted his picture declaring that he was a thug. Who knows what motivated him to flip off the camera with both hands–perhaps peer pressure, perhaps teen angst, or perhaps he really was a bit of a thug at the particular moment in time when that picture was taken. The truth is that we don’t really know what sort of a person he is.
If I were feeling spiteful, I could go flip through my small pool of Facebook friends and find dozens of white middle class teenagers and college students giving the finger or worse. If a decision to let someone take a picture of you doing something foolish is an indication of a person’s worth, we are all in grave danger. As a soccer coach and a pastor to youth, I can tell you have seen more disconcerting things from teenagers on Facebook and I can also tell you there is more to these teens than meets the eye. What they need is not be written off as degenerate thugs but for someone to hear them out, show them grace, and offer them something better.