Dear Supporters of Trayvon Martin,
As the nation watches the events of the George Zimmerman murder trial, I humbly beseech you to lend your ears and hearts to the following words. On Feb. 26, 2012, a young unarmed black man was gunned down while returning home from a local convenience store. Armed with some candy and an iced tea, Trayvon was followed by an armed stranger who suspected that he was involved in some sort of unlawfully activity. We may never truly know the specifics of how things turned for the worse. That information is known only to God, George Zimmerman, and Trayvon Martin(who can no longer speak for himself). What I do know is that another young life has been snuffed out. I choose not to dwell on Trayvon’s flaws because we are all flawed individuals. It doesn’t matter how many times he was suspended from school. It doesn’t matter how much weed he smoked. What matters is that homicide is the leading cause of death for young black men in the United States of America. Our young brothers are more likely to be murdered than die by disease, car accidents, and suicides combined. As a historian, I have spent the better part of my life researching cultures and events of the past. A culture cannot survive without its young men. The Assyrian Empire ethnically cleansed millions between the 9th and 7th century B.C. The Middle Ages saw a minority of Jews in Europe persecuted and murdered for their religious beliefs. The Homestead Act of 1862 provided the legal theft of Native American land. A theft mired in deceitfully broken treaties and bloody conflicts that resulted in the decimation of many native peoples. The Mau Mau Revolution in Kenya saw KiKuyu freedom fighters take up arms against their British colonizers. They were massacred and in some instances tortured. According to the Kenya Human Rights Commission, 90,000 were executed, tortured, or maimed at the hands of the colonial administration. I give you these historical examples of genocide and ethnic cleansing to illustrate that large scale death can have a profound impact on the sustainability of a culture or nation. What are we to do about our young black men? I say “our” because regardless of your ethnicity, these young men are fellow citizens. Their deaths weaken our nation. We can no longer turn a blind eye to this crisis. Are we ambivalent to this genocide because it has not yet affected the soccer moms and suburbanites? At some point, we must realize that there is a very large elephant in the room. We can act like we don’t see those ivory tusks protruding out but that doesn’t mean they’re not there. We must get serious about race. We must engage it and wrestle it to the ground with a determined ferocity. It cannot be left in the hands of self serving politicians who use it as political fodder to satisfy their own narcissistic ambitions. As a middle-aged black man, I have been racially profiled so many times that it would be impossible to recall all the occurrences. It is a reality that my parents prepared me for as a young child. The reality that there is a palpable difference in how minorities are viewed and/or treated in this country. Trayvon was aware of that. We live with that truth everyday. We also live with the awareness that our country’s legal system is biased, flawed, and has the halituous stench of systemic inequality. The sad fact is that if Trayvon Martin was white and George Zimmerman was black, the ensuing events would have played out much differently. My concern, however, is what happens if Zimmerman gets acquitted? History tells us that there is an above average likelihood that he will not be held accountable. What happens then? In 1992, cities across the United States erupted in violence and protest regarding the acquittal of four police officers who brutally beat Rodney King(and were videotaped doing so). In Los Angeles alone there was 1 billion dollars worth of damage and 53 people dead. Malcolm X once said, “there can be no revolution without bloodshed”. He didn’t advocate unprovoked violence but said that any revolutionary plans must account for this possibility. If George Zimmerman is acquitted of the murder of Trayvon Martin, please my fellow supporters do not blindly rage into the streets in remonstrance. I fear what the potential reactions may be. As John Jay said in 1813, “To hope for the best and prepare for the worst, is a trite but a good maxim.” We hope as supporters of Trayvon that the trial will serve justice, however, we should prepare for the possibility that it will not. How will we prevent 1992 Los Angeles from happening again? Will we organize? Will we hold our elected politicians accountable for enacting legislation that allows the Zimmerman’s of the world to murder when they feel “threatened”? Will we flood the justice department with letters? Will we mobilize en masse to Sanford, Florida to let the people’s voice be heard? Or will we send out a few tweets and remain in our ivory towers complaining of the ongoing miscarriages of justice? I do not know the answers to these questions, however, I know that allowing raw emotion to dictate your actions will result in swift and immediate response by those charged to “protect and serve”. We must begin to think about the response to the impending verdict. After all, if you fail to plan, plan to fail. We owe it to Trayvon to do so.