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After Trayvon: A Word of Love to Every Black Person I Know

So many wonderful and thoughtful and insightful pieces have been written about the brutal and senseless killing of Trayvon Martin. I will leave links at the bottom of this piece so that you can read should you choose to do so.

This is a time of great sadness for most, if not all of us. At different times over the past year of knowing that a beautiful teenage boy was followed at night, accosted and shot dead I have felt any combination of rage, fear, guilt, anger, sadness, hopelessness and emotional drought. I have also felt the flames of prejudice heat up in my heart as I question the beliefs of every white person I know. Which of my colleagues, if a stranger, would follow me at night and shoot me? Which of them are aching to carry out some false sense of retribution against people who look like me? Which neighbors and classmates support George Zimmerman and have prayed the opposite of which I have prayed? Which of them cannot for a second view a black child over the age of 5 years old as a child? Who, behind their smiles and shared Starbucks runs, views me as less than whether consciously or subconsciously? The drive to know and the desire not to know both haunts and weakens my psyche. 

No doubt we have all felt this stress before. We have all experienced or been a witness to the American institutions that fail us on a daily basis laying blame at our weary feet. We know that the police are to be feared more than respected. We realize that steps continue to be taken to block us from quality educations and safe spaces to live and work and play. We know this. Still, as we live through an era in which the President is black, the magnitude and sheer audacity of new age Jim Crow policies seem to be increasing. One day it’s Oscar Grant and another day it’s massive school closings. On a different day it’s a SCOTUS repeal of the voting rights act and on still another different day it’s a big city mayor’s embarrassing defense of “stop and frisk.”

I am exhausted. You are exhausted. We are exhausted. Everything is exhausting.

The tragedy of Trayvon Martin has changed who I am to the core. Certainly, as I explained above, I am no stranger to the injustices doled out to black people. After all, my favorite superhero is no other than Nat Turner. A man who revealed his faith in God led him away from his master and then back to him on more than one occasion before he finally led an uprising that redoubled American efforts to keep black people enslaved.

But, in my lifetime, I’ve never seen such an active unabashed disregard for black human life. And in today’s world of hyper-news the connected among us are even more informed about the racism happening all over the country. And still this retains a sting like no other as it has brought to light a question that will haunt us for some time.

What do we do next? 

I believe there is nothing that black folks can do to dismantle racism. What the master has built, no slave can destroy. Racism is a learned behavior and personal choice. Black people do not have the power to change the minds of every person who believes they hold superiority over blacks. And that includes other blacks who have purchased the master’s book, had it printed, and its contents permanently stored within them.

Still, I think there are things we can do so that Trayvon’s death is not just another bump in the road.


Make Every Effort to Be Kind and to Educate Black Children

Our community loves to talk about keeping kids in line, but it’s time to pay more attention to showing them love. Black children of both genders need more hugs and kisses. They need you to talk to them more, explain things, compliment them, and be kind. The world will show them cruelty soon enough, there’s no need for us to be their first experiences with violence and fear. Please think about how you treat the black children in your lives and where you could be a better example and giver of love. Also, look for ways to teach black children to be proud of black culture. Like Italians and Jewish people, and Mexicans and any number of other ethnicities, Black people have a culture to be proud of and a rich indisputable history of contributions to the establishment of America.

Stop Apologizing for the Actions of Racists 

This year I was very disappointed when the President and First Lady chose to speak in front of graduates of Historically Black Universities with a “pull up your bootstraps” message. In a time when schools are closing in black communities all over the country and our right to vote is in peril, lecturing black folks (accomplished ones, no less!) about behavior was tasteless, crass and embarrassing. But I find that we, as a community, do this often and it’s time to stop. It may be comforting to believe that speaking perfect mid-western Anglo-American English, dressing up to go to the mailbox, watching CNN rather than Scandal, and forgoing parenthood until socially acceptable is a way to stop racism. But, what’s comforting to believe is not effective, nor is it fair. In fact, this belief is not only impractical, it is damaging and cruel. I would encourage every black person to reexamine their beliefs about black people. You may be surprised to learn what biases against your own culture and community you’ve accepted as truth.

Encourage Civil Rights Organizations to (re)Focus 

Civil rights organizations have entered a period of virtual uselessness as having “national conversations” on issues ceased to matter. Now, action is all that matters. When it comes to social progress, the most important thing today is controlling elections and media. I believe it is time for organizations such as the Urban League and NAACP to follow the lead of the Koch Brothers and Rupert Murdoch and focus less on small issues and more on the larger picture. Black people need our organizations to help more progressive black folks get elected at all levels of government, to seek ownership in media, and to change the curriculum in schools in terms of what is taught about race.

Know the Facts of the Zimmerman Case or Shut Up About It 

One of the best things any one can do right now is be fully informed about the facts of the Zimmerman case rather than simply acting on or against emotion. The facts of the George Zimmerman case are important to know for the sake of conversation and history. Please do not disrespect other black people by speaking about the Zimmerman trial without educating yourself. Likewise, if it is a clear that you are speaking to a person who is uninformed about the facts of the case, do not be afraid to cut the conversation short. To engage on a subject of importance with someone significantly less educated on that topic is a stress that most of us cannot afford at the current time. The Zimmerman case was explained very well by Mother Jones: Moreover,  looking for ways to justify the “not guilty” verdict when it is not necessary to do so is also dismissive to the circumstances in this case. To quote the 911 operator who spoke to Zimmerman that night “Sir, we don’t need you to do that.”

To the family of Trayvon Martin, in particular Sybrina Fulton, Tracy Martin, and Jahvaris Fulton, you have been beacon of public strength and resolve. I wish you peace and I hope that you are able to somehow experience moments of pure unadulterated joy as your remaining son goes on to become a successful adult.

With love to all of Black America,




To donate to the Trayvon Martin Foundation link

Zimmerman Jury Tells Black Men What They Already Knew link

What the Zimmerman Trial Was About link

What Happened to Trayvon Martin - Explained link

Why It’s Important to Study the History of Slaverylink

The Success of Rupert Murdoch link

Koch Brothers Foray Into Media Already a Success link


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