March 21, 2012
What Kind of Man Could Trayvon Martin Have Been?
My godson, Russell, is 17, Black. He likes Skittles and iced tea. He often wears jeans and hoodies. He plays sports and goes to high school. He’s been accepted to every college he’s applied to so far, but is still waiting on a few. He’s into robotics, won a science competition last summer, and is planning on becoming an engineer.
My nephew, Teddy, is 16, Black. He likes Skittles and iced tea. He often wears jeans and hoodies and is a scholar athlete at his high school. He’s a junior about to take his college entrance exams. He’s planning to become an “extremely successfulâ€ (his words!) entrepreneur.
My son, Carter, is 14 but (he will proudly tell you) he can easily pass for 16 or 17. He is, of course, Black. He likes Skittles and iced tea. He often wears jeans and hoodies. A high school freshman, he loves sports as well as art and history. He’s not sure what he wants to become yet, but he’s excited about his future.
All three of these young men are a lot like Trayvon Martin in that they are young, beloved, gifted, and Black. They all enjoy sweets and sports and dressing in the uniform of their generation. They have plans, hopes, aspirations and much to contribute to the world. Lord willing, they will head families, be responsible fathers and members of communities. They will pay bills and taxes and do their part to keep the economy cranking. They are as likely as any of their peers (of any race or ethnicity) to invent a product or start a business or make a documentary film that changes lives–and thus, the world–for the better. Let’s pray that they get their chance to do so.
Trayvon Martin won’t get his chance because he was shot dead a month ago while walking down a Sanford, Florida street carrying nothing more than a newly purchased bag of Skittles, a can of iced tea, and his cell phone. Trayvon Martin no longer has a future for his family to rally behind and watch unfold; they are left to simply pray that he rests in peace. But they have also had to fight for justice in this case as Black families have in so many similar cases before this.
The details in this case, while now familiar, are mind boggling no matter how many times you hear them. Unarmed and minding his own business, Trayvon Martin was shot in the chest by a so-called neighborhood watcher who deemed him “suspiciousâ€ looking. In fact, confessed killer, George Zimmerman, saw Trayvon Martin as so menacing, he trailed him in his car while dialing 911 to report seeing the young man–not committing a crime or doing anything at all other than walking down the street looking “suspicious.â€ Unprovoked and unfamiliar with the child who was not yet old enough to vote, Zimmerman told the 911 operator, “These a–holes always get away.â€
Zimmerman continued to tail Martin against the operator’s explicit instructions not to do so. At some point, Zimmerman–a 28-year-old Latino who is older and physically larger than his victim–got out of his car and approached Martin on foot. The details of what ensued are not known. What is: Zimmerman shot Martin with his licensed 9mm gun and Martin was left dead.