A Dream Deferred: Christopher,Terrell, Trayvon and the Outrage of Silence

A Dream Deferred: Christopher,Terrell, Trayvon and the Outrage of Silence August 25, 2013

He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it. Martin Luther King, Jr. .

My good friend, colleague, and fellow Patheos blogger, Alyce McKenzie asked me earlier this week, “why is there so much time between your blog posts?” I explained that I don’t like to blog just to blog. I have to feel passionate or pissed off to write and lately nothing had risen to the level of pissivity (yes, this is a word), to get the juices flowing.I mean, there were little things that bugged me here and there like, why the Texas Ranger’s didn’t trade for a better bat for a playoff run; or that it is considered ‘anti-feminist’ to groove to Robin Thicke’s, Blurred Lines (go ahead, hum it, you know you want to); or that Kris Jenner (Kim and Khloe’s pim*, er I mean mother) was given a talk show. But nothing it seems really got my blood boiling. And there was the problem.You see, this last week, two times I sat in front of my television to watch stories about two different young men cut down in the prime of their lives. One black and one white, they were nice kids, both leaders, both beloved by family, friends, and their respective communities, and both of them were murdered by young men their same age. And my response: I just shook my head. No blog. No outrage. Just a shake of the head.

Terrell Coward, had just graduated from Prairie View A&M and was embracing life as an engineer and a budding community leader in Dallas. Terrell, leaving a local hotspot with his girlfriend and frat brother, saw an altercation and decided to do what leaders do-act. He sought to get each side to cool down and walk away. He didn’t want to see anyone hurt and he didn’t want to see anyone to go to jail. He just wanted everybody to step back, take a breath, and move on. By all accounts, he was more than respectful. The video of his murder, shows that when his murderer approached him, he raised his hands to show he was unarmed and only wanted to prevent violence. Yet, rather than take advice from someone his own age who was trying to save his life, Julian Martin took a life and now sits behind bars.

Christopher Lane, went for a run like he had every morning while visiting his girlfriend. A baseball player from Australia, Chris was in Oklahoma to play baseball at a small local college. We will never know if he saw his killers that morning but we do know that they saw him. Three boys, bored and armed, decided that Christopher would be their target for the day.

In the days that have followed, Terrell’s death has faded from our local news, while Christopher’s has become the cause of the day for the Conservative machine and virtually ignored by Progressive pundits. The usual suspects, Limbaugh, Beck, and Allen West have called this a ‘reverse Treyvon Martin’ and have called the Civil Rights community out for their failure to condemn Christopher’s murder. While commentators like Melissa Perry, Rachel Maddow, remained silent Progressive sites like the Gawker and the Grio, while decrying the Conservatives ‘race baiting’, always explain why Christopher’s death cannot be treated with the same outrage as Treyvon’s because as Progressive activist, Tim Wise pointed out on MSNBC: “There was an arrest and Trayvon’s body was in a morgue for 72 hours and Zimmerman was free for 6 weeks”. Seriously. And he said it with a straight face.

You see what Rush, Allen, Tim, Joy, The Grio and almost everybody else fail to see is that lost in all of the stupidity that has flowed back and forth between pundits on the left and the right, is the fact (say it with me- THE FACT), that these mothers will never hold their sons again; these young men will never get the chance to have children with the women they loved; and that these men’s deaths are only worthy of the attention that they provide for political and ideological debates. See what is really ticking me off is that Treyvon, Terrell, and Christopher have died in vain because most of us talk a good game about caring about violence, inequity, justice, but unless it suits our ideological needs, we can ignore the death of another human being as just a part of ‘our sick society’.

Let’s cut to the chase: If you were ticked off over George Zimmerman getting off for killing an unarmed teenager with skittles and tea then you should be equally ticked off that Christopher Lane was killed for just taking a run. If you are ticked off because three teenage boys would shoot a young man in the back because they wanted to play a live version of the Nintendo game “Duck Hunt” then you should be equally ticked off that Trayvon Martin was killed because a man wanted to play cop.

Let’s get even more real: where is the liberal outrage over the 54 young black men killed in Chicago between the beginning and the end of the Zimmerman trial. All of them were Trayvon’s age or younger and sadly their killers were as well. Why aren’t we marching on state capitals to decry the loss of funding for head start with the same zeal we do for Abortion rights? Why aren’t we ticked off that the justice we were promised after Newtown has been delayed long enough, for another gunman to make his way into a school in Georgia? Why is it so easy for us to don a hoody and proclaim we are Trayvon, while it almost seems implausible that we would don a pair of running shorts and proclaim we are Chris?

Dr. King, whose Dream Speech all of us good Progressives will celebrate at some point over the next three days, knew how easily the dream could be deferred and at worse, turn into a nightmare. If you read beyond 1963 (which most people don’t), Dr. King became incredibly concerned with the moral compass of an American society that was proving to have an increasing tolerance for naked aggression and violence. Outlined in probably his most radical, yet theologically developed text, Where do we go from Here, Dr. King decries a racially based morality, that sees injustice only when it effects people who look like us. He laments a retributive system in which violence (or at least a willful silence and blind eye when violence occurs) toward an espoused enemy was justified. In the middle of the speech to the SCLC, King offers his most candid comments about the Watts riots and the Black Power movement. In his gifted way, Dr. King prophetically called out each side for their complicity in the coming breakdown of relations.Dr. King explained it this way:

“Now what has happened is that we’ve had it wrong and mixed up in our country, and this has led Negro Americans in the past to seek their goals through love and moral suasion devoid of power, and white Americans to seek their goals through power devoid of love and conscience. It is leading a few extremists today to advocate for Negroes the same destructive and conscienceless power that they have justly abhorred in whites. It is precisely this collision of immoral power with powerless morality which constitutes the major crisis of our times”. (Where Do We Go From Here ,1967)

Friends, the major crisis, Dr. King, speaks of is the hypocrisy of self-delusion that allows us to justify or ignore one murder and protest another. It is the belief that four centuries of oppression and mistreatment justify turning a blind eye and keeping a tight lip when the oppressor finds himself oppressed. It is the political rhetoric that tells one mother her child is valuable, while systematically and structurally telling another that hers is an instant candidate for the garbage heap. It is the incongruity of demanding every child be born and then refusing to provide care for the child’s education and health after its born. It is the same hypocrisy that believes that drones flying indiscriminately across deserts and killing innocents is different than a backpack full of bombs left on a street corner. It is the hypocrisy that keeps you silent because the President is of your party but gives you a full throated of critique when he is of another. It is the marching for one life, while sitting down for another.

Until we can march together against oppression of anyone and everyone; Until we can dedicate hours of television time to cover the trials of every young man and woman murdered; Until higher education is as easy to get as a .22; Until our elderly don’t have to cut their medicine or meals in half to survive ;Until we prosecute all domestic violence whether it is committed by men or women; Until we will pay a teacher as much as we pay the quarterback that didn’t pass the class; Until the college player exploited by the University plantation is freed to exercise their commercial rights; and until Black Mothers and White Mothers equally demand justice for their children and are heard equally then Dr. King’s dream will continued to be deferred and that just ticks me off.

Well Alyce, this is another fine mess you have gotten me into.

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