The Minority Report: An Apology for the Other Trayvon Martin

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.

 

About Drew Dixon

Drew is an editor at Christ and Pop Culture and editor-in-chief of Gamechurch.com. He is also a pastor, soccer coach, and writer. Drew also regularly writes for Think Christian, Bit Creature, and Paste Magazine. He has also written for Relevant Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @drewdixon82

  • Ben

    I missed this one. I never saw the “other” Trayvon. Maybe I need more Facebook friends.
    I think you make some good points Drew, but really I think you are off on your statement:
    “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.”

    This could be true, and I am sure it is on many counts, but not necessarily universal. I think people are eager to jump on a side, join a campaign, and by doing so be “meaningful” on some level (also my position on the rampant Kony surge that died off quickly).
    But if I disregard my cynicism for a minute (okay, that is tough but I’ll do my best to tone it down) I would say that people do this to help process the situation. To have a tragedy like what happened it tough. It’s tough even if it is clean cut, which this situation is not. If there were a clear good guy and bad guy it sure makes it easier to swallow and push through it. But for there to not be a good guy at all, or two bad guys, or nobody will ever know situation, people really start having problems because they have to deal with our depravity head on. Most people don’t want to do that, whether they are believers in Christ or not, because it is hard and ugly and not the easy path. No, let’s opt to find a bad guy and blame him. Then we can go on with our day.

  • http://electexiles.wordpress.com/ Drew Dixon

    @Ben I agree with you on many levels only I don’t think my little comment was meant to paint this situation in broad brush strokes of good vs. evil. In fact I think if you read the whole article you will get the exact opposite. I am trying to say we shouldn’t write off teenagers as thugs or whatever else for the FB photos.

    That said, I am sorta scratching my head on how that little comment (which you agreed is mostly true) spawned this reaction from you.

  • trayvon

    Did you have the pistol with the two 40-bullet magazines at 17? Punch out any bus drivers?

  • Adam E

    … after reading numerous comments on this site, I now truly understand what Jesus meant in Mark 4:12:

    They may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding…

  • Ben

    @Drew
    I want to make sure you realize I only disagree with your comment being a universal one (I do agree it is true of some) and that I am not critiquing you or your article, and yes I got the point that you were not saying that kids should be written off so easily. It was more just a springboard for my venting on the situation and something I keep seeing in our culture. My statement is based on a couple things.
    Firstly, there being such a focus on racism in this case. Honestly, I don’t think that is the issue here. That is not to say I don’t think it is a factor, of course it is. But I think the case is more about lack of obeying authorities by Zimmerman and the lack of arresting of him by the police (at least until investigations into the event could be done). A trailing factor is if his actions were racism/hate based. So when statements are made that seem to be blanket racism promoters in this case I tend to knee jerk react to “stop” we need to back off and analyse that a bit before we all agree to it.
    That being said, I think it is just how people like to be these days. This is just my observation and commentary on how people deal with things in the world. No, I don’t think that you were painting with broad brush strokes at all, or relating it to good and evil, but I certainly was. I really see people using “villainy” as a basic coping mechanism in a lot of cases. Heck, it might just be good marketing, but regardless it results the same. If you can paint somebody the villain then the people will jump on board the hate train. It is too difficult to deal with the Zimmerman/Martin case and keep it clean. It is really ugly and messy. Too messy for people to deal with, because in our minds there should be a simple right and wrong and easy solution in the world. But the world isn’t simple, it’s ugly. It is so messed up by our sin that it is not recognizable to what we think we know or what it should be (but that is a different rant so I’ll just leave it at that). So people can’t just look at the situation and say it’s messed up, a complete tragedy, and we all suck because we are sinners. No, I think it is easier to say somebody is a bad guy, and it’s their fault. It’s a coping mechanism. Blame them and take action against them and justice is served and balance maintained in the universe. Go on with your life without changing anything. I think when people are honest and start digging into themselves when situations like these arise, they start to change. It is really uncomfortable and seriously can mess your life up, but it doesn’t mean it is bad. In fact, it can lead you to Jesus. But that is the hard route, so more often than not people align themselves with something simple that seems plausible. Some villainize Zimmerman for being racist. Some say Martin was not a pure youth and had it coming. Both are too simple to summarize what happened though. But it makes it easy to accept and move on.

  • Tate Peterson

    I don’t see why people are so judgmental about the “thug”. I made my fair share of poorly thought out decisions but I have to say that many of those moments hold great memories for me. If someone were to judge me for a flipping the bird photo of me I would be happy to not have them in my life. I think that caring that much about how others see me is a waste of time.


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