Race

Letter | Martin’s death, reactions, illustrate continued denial about race issues

July 18, 2013 

Trayvon Martin is dead for one reason and one reason alone. He had no rights that George Zimmerman was bound to respect. Not the right to travel unmolested; not the right to exist without suspicion, and most sadly, not the right to live.

To those who would maintain that this killing and trial was not about race, I would ask, what was it about then? To not even consider that fact makes the people who put forth the idea bad-faith actors who are unable or unwilling to concede something that may open up a deeper, harder, more important conversation.

And those who even try the most rudimentary understanding of the dynamics of this case and the racial components of it usually fall victim to the “why don't you march for black-on-black crime that occurs every day” trope. Which basically implies that the issues that befall black people in general and black youth in particular are so all-encompassing and all-important and so dire that we, as black people can only come to their door with racism after we have figuratively swept our front door of our perceived inherent criminality problem. In other words, Fix Chicago first, then we can talk about the imagined racism of your fevered mind.

I don't have children, but I have three nephews, all under the age of 12. What unspoken unwritten rules must they know to navigate the space that being black in America inhabits? And how do I answer their questions, should they choose to ask me, about the proper etiquette for interacting with not only criminals and the police, which are known quantities, but also of the overzealous, armed not only with a gun, but with cowardice, ignorance and fear of the unknown?

That they may, by no fault of their own, be sentenced to death by a judge and jury of one. Or that there are wide ideological and social swaths of this country that will find a backdoor justification for your death because of a photo, or a twitter post. These facts are real. They manifested themselves on a Saturday night.

To the young men, specifically young black men, we must do better. Exercise your mind, body, spirit and soul. Become an avatar of knowledge and nobility. Know that based on the preconceived notions, fear or just plain old racism, your life is in total and constant danger. This country is changing, slowly but inexorably. Learn the lesson of this incident. Acquit yourselves honorably. And arm yourself, legally.

There are a lot more Zimmermans out there looking to prove themselves by hurting or killing a black person. Take heart and take heed.

The writer , who now lives in North Charleston, previously lived in Conway.

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