Monday, July 15, 2013

Growth Lessons Courtesy Of Trayvon Martin

Like so many who who watched news coverage of the George Zimmerman acquittal, I was stunned by the verdict and riveted to my screen in search of answers, clarity, something! Nothing came after hours of news commentary.

Finally, during a phone call with my brother and nephew, who is the same age as Trayvon, my disgust finally took the form of an emotion that I could pinpoint and articulate. My nephew doesn't typically wear hoodies, but I'm sure he wears something that could cause him to be viewed as "suspicious" in the eyes of someone who has a prejudicial bias towards him (or black male youth like him).

While many are outraged by the injustice of the acquittal, black people are outraged because we all have a Trayvon in our families.

The disparities in the equal treatment of black men (including our president) has long been recognized and embraced as a "sad" reality, but the situation with black boys has long been under the radar.

Suspicion of black male youth and disproportionate discipline have always existed. Black male youth are 3 and 1/2 times more likely to be suspended or expelled than whites, and 70% of youth in our schools who are referred to for police incidents are black or Latino males. The overzealousness that George Zimmerman had in "profiling" Trayvon Martin, is evident in a myriad of social, academic, and professional settings.

While Geraldo Rivera boldly and accurately predicted George Zimmerman's acquittal, based on the logic of self-defense, many people aren't buying it. Neither am I. Nor have any black people that I know. Geraldo's prognostication was legally right, but morally incorrect; Trayvon who was defending himself from blatant profiling; the guy who instigated the need for self-defense as a result of the profiling killed him. It was like the teacher who reprimands the child who retaliates against that bully.

Those of us who have a Trayvon Martin in our families are now called upon to have a difficult conversation and frame an intelligent conversation around a racially motivated act. The Huffington post had the right idea today in their column on how to explain the George Zimmerman verdict to children.

It was a good article that dared to do something that the politically correct news anchors or reporters did not do the night of George Zimmerman's acquittal - fully embrace the reality that racism still  exists, and that the perception of black boys and men as perpetrators, has not changed - in spite of the fact that we have a black president.

There is an opportunity for growth when we embrace reality, and adapt accordingly. 

From this tragic incident, my nephew will adjust his perspective to see the many possibilities of circumstances that he may find himself in, and make decisions based upon the outcome that he wants to that entails being the bigger person and walking away to face another day, and another opportunity to get a bag of in which he can see threats in advance, and navigate himself through potential volatile situations - the kind in which assailants of black youth and men are historically, and routinely, vindicated.

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