This is the moment. Trayvon Martin died at almost this exact moment one year ago. Candlelight vigils are being held in his honor in Florida and New York City, social media has once again been leveraged to memorialize the tragedy, news outlets have marked the anniversary appropriately with reflective coverage and thoughtful commentary, but nothing will compensate for the final breath that 17-year-old child took on this day.
Trayvon didn't make his mark on black history like he could have. He’s not the only young, unarmed African-American boy to be murdered without just cause or provocation and, unfortunately—but very realistically—he won’t be the last. But his is the story that brings the issue to the fore. His death has been the catalyst for the conversation about race that we’ve been avoiding as a country.
Why have so many black children died because of gun violence? And why has it been so tedious, so hard, so laborious to get the powers that be to care?
Travyon has not been, nor should he be, a martyr for anybody’s cause. His life is more meaningful than that. He, like Emmett Till, was a regular child living a regular life that was snuffed out because racism seethed unchecked and the availability of a weapon allowed it to become murder. Emmett was killed because of mob mentality. So was Trayvon. Because even though George Zimmerman physically acted alone, years of racist, discriminatory group think informed his decision to zero in on a black boy in a hoodie with a pack of Skittles and an iced tea and see him as a threat. A target. An enemy.
That makes Zimmerman the martyr for centuries for unresolved racial tension.
There’s a chance he will never be brought to justice. Let’s just be honest. Media coverage of the case has waned over the last 365 days, trickling to news that has to be sought out in Google searches when it was once a top-of-the-hour headline readily dispensed to the public. But when you do find out what’s going on, you learn that Zimmerman's attorney will brandish the Stand Your Ground law at an April 29 hearing, which may grant his client immunity and allow him to shirk a criminal trial altogether. That’s saddening. But it’s happened so many times before.
It’s one thing for black folks to be outraged. We live the realities of racism, even on the subtlest, most deeply ingrained levels. But I commend the white people who understand and acknowledge the power of their privilege—which basically cushions them from any race-related unpleasantries and gives them a ready-made advantage—but still stand in solidarity to demand real conversation about race. To demand justice for Trayvon and all of the other unnamed victims like him.
I wish more people would just acknowledge cultural terrorism and wonder what they can do to help fix it instead of acting like we’re being ridiculously oversensitive or, just as bad, that we should “get over it.”
Trayvon’s death will be in vain, conviction or not, if we don't have an honest conversation about how boys who look like him are already marked for failure just because of their race and how the chips are stacked against them. It's not a pity party or a sob story. It's something that can be changed. It might be uncomfortable. But even more uncomfortable is having to observe the anniversaries of slain black children with no end to the violence in sight.
Why are Americans still so uncomfortable with open, honest conversations about race?
Image via amberjamiewordpress/Flickr