Of all the things I could think to write today, none feels right in light of the jury verdict that we got yesterday in America. It’s moments like this that make me think
I was horrified enough when young Trayvon Martin was killed in the first place. A child out buying some candy. Shot and killed…why? Because he existed? That someone might mistake you for a criminal because you are walking around outside your home is a fear that no one should ever have to have.
At least I was relieved that they had in custody the man who did it and that bastard could pay. But he’s not. He was let go. What kind of a world are we living in where that happens? I am fine with people’s right to own guns. But I am not okay with people using those guns to shoot children in the street.
It’s too easy for Americans to see how far we’ve come in civil rights and start to believe that we’ve beaten racism. Let this be a reminder to us that racism is thriving in America and if Trayvon’s death is to have any meaning, it is to rally people to fight against it, to be vocal against it, for all of us to care that young black men are in danger for no reason.
I have had so little experience in this, but it does remind me of two moments that really stuck out to me when they happened:
1) Hanging out with a friend at night in the bitter cold winter of Rochester, NY. He’s a black man in his early twenties, an evangelical Christian, the most moral person I know and one of the most generous and kind-hearted. He’s wearing a hoodie with the hood down and he’s freezing. As he shivers, I suggest that he should put up his hood, after all a lot of heat is escaping from his head. How naive I was. “I can’t,” he says, “Someone might call the police.”
How sad is that? That incident was thirteen years ago and it is still something that young black men have to worry about, something they have to consider that I never do. No one is going to call the cops, have me arrested, or kill me because I’m cold and I’m wearing a hooded sweatshirt.
2) A woman in my parents’ church gave a talk when I was a teenager. Her family was one of only a handful of black families in our town. Where I grew up was overwhelmingly WASP, Jewish, and Asian. Tears formed in her eyes as she spoke about how she knew people would think about her son when he got older. How people would be suspicious of this darling, sweet boy with his huge smile. How people would judge him and the weight of being a mother and knowing that that world was awaiting her son. It still makes me cry to remember her saying it.
I don’t believe the world is getting better or going to get better. I think we’re in a mad spiral downwards into destruction and ignorance and hatred will only get stronger. But we people who care must continue to fight it. We must aspire to be better people than this world wants or expects us to be.
I don’t know what I can do to prevent a tragedy like this from happening again, but I will keep my eye out for an opportunity.