Project 21 New Visions

Deneen Borelli

Trayvon's Story Made Famous for the Wrong Reasons


by Jerome Hudson (bio)

 

Trayvon Martin became a household name for all the wrong reasons.

Martin's death created an international firestorm because George Zimmerman, the person at fault, was not immediately taken into custody by Sanford, Florida authorities.

What made things worse is that Martin is black, Zimmerman is part-Hispanic/part-white and the Sanford police chief is white.

It is a somber event that has unfortunately become an angry racial mess.

The level of pain Martin's parents must be feeling is unimaginable. A parent should never have to bury their child — especially under such tragic circumstances. And to be thrust into the national spotlight over such a horrible event must make things even worse.

It's a terrible truth that caskets are increasingly being filled with the bodies of America's young. While the focus is on Trayvon Martin, little attention seems to be paid to the disproportionate number of other young blacks who are still being put in those caskets by black assailants.

Since Martin's death, the homicidal headlines continue:

  • Over St. Patrick's Day weekend in Chicago, 49 people were shot and ten died
  • Gang-related tension at a North Miami funeral in mid-March led to violence in which 14 were shot and two killed. Among those wounded was a five-year-old girl.
  • Tonawanda Thompson was shot to death in her car in Richmond, California in late April. Her unborn child died with her.

Our nation's checkered past of slavery and racial discrimination causes lingering anxiety. But an apparent inability to embrace a post-racial mindset appears to render too many people ill-prepared to accept the epidemic of black-on-black murder. Trayvon Martin's circumstances were more the exception than the norm.

And searching for a cause for skyrocketing black-on-black murder rates is a topic too few people are willing to discuss — perhaps on purpose. With a disproportionate number of blacks killed by other blacks to relatively little lack of outrage, those perpetrating the narrative of racial hatred lack moral authority.

But why not do just that? Why are too many people heeding the suggestion of a recent headline on web sites such as NewsOne and the Huffington Post that read "Stop Using Trayvon Martin's Murder to Discuss Black-on-Black Crime."

There is a culture of death in the black community that must be confronted. With the advent of the "stop snitching" era, things are worse because blacks are dying and the police can't make arrests.

So why is Trayvon Martin's death different?

Trayvon's mother says "this is not about a black and white thing; this is about a right and wrong thing." I could not agree more, but I fear she and I are in the minority.

On MSNBC's Morning Joe, for example, co-host Mika Birzinsky asked: "What decade are we in?" She further suggested: "This has everything to do with race." Agitators call Martin the new Emmett Till.

It's not that Martin's death doesn't deserve attention. For his death to not be in vain, we must have that long overdue conversation about other deaths of black youth that are routinely played out across America.

I hold no brief for George Zimmerman. I am not indicting Sanford Police Department. My views on "stand your ground" laws are irrelevant. I mourn for the Martin family with a heavy heart.

I am also a son who learned about the horrible dangers of my own neighborhood from the middle school classmate who pointed a single-barreled shotgun at me.

Sadly, my story is not unique. But, unlike so many others, my life was spared.

Trayvon Martin's death is still in the headlines. In the future, however, the parameters of the discussion must change.

And the leaders must lead. There's something to be said about the fact that, since the election of the first black president, we still seem to lack the ability to have an intellectually honest discussion about race in America.

Maybe all of this is by design.

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Jerome Hudson is a member of the Project 21 black leadership network. Comments may be sent to [email protected].

Published by the National Center for Public Policy Research. Reprints permitted provided source is credited. New Visions Commentaries reflect the views of their author, and not necessarily those of Project 21, other Project 21 members, or the National Center for Public Policy Research, its board or staff.


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