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Editor’s Note: A collection of multiracial voices comment on the Trayvon Martin tragedy and its aftermath.
No one teenager ever lives wanting to be a martyr for an entire people and nation. But that’s what happened this past Sunday in a Florida church, where Jesse Jackson anointed Trayvon Martin as a martyr, and called for a movement in Trayvon’s name to alter the racist disenfranchisement of people of color within the American criminal justice system.
Trayvon’s name and face now flood the news and social media channels. What is perplexing is the fact that his image, in less than one month, has gone through combating iterations and narratives that seek to define and re-write Trayvon’s entire story. His likeness has been attributed commercially to Arizona Tea and Skittles. His name is listed as a “trending” and “hot right now” topic on numerous news sites. The depiction of his masculinity and blackness have undergone a series of shifts, from being portrayed in initial photographs as a smiling teenager in a Hollister t-shirt, to an athlete in a football uniform, to recent Facebook photographs of him shirtless, a grill replacing that smile, the evidence of tattoos on his arms, the shadow of a hoodie looming over his eyes — all presented as if it has something to do with why he is dead. Trayvon has been made into a symbol with dual meaning; different depending on the media source that describes him; either an innocent martyr or an imposing, violent black man.
But this negotiation of narrative and image pinpoints the core issue of why Trayvon matters so much to America right now and forever. The death of Trayvon and the subsequent absence of justice served represent the collective trauma of racism in America. The movements and media frenzy surrounding Trayvon show that America continues to wrestle over how to have a legitimate conversation about race. This loaded moment resurrects memories of lynchings, race riots, church and house bombings, segregation and inequality by school, neighborhood and city, police brutality crimes, and prisons stacked with disproportionate numbers of men of color – none of which have ever found justice in our system. We refuse to forget that fact.
To a degree, it is unfair to place so much powerful meaning onto Trayvon’s name – he was just a teenager — but his body carries that legacy. Even before his birth, the odds were against him. Trayvon would be judged a certain way, looked at twice a certain way, reprimanded twice. He would not be allowed to create and own the narrative of his very life. This tragedy continues to be played out every day in America, and not only to young black men, but to every young man of color — Latino, Asian, American Indian, and Arab – every time we get labeled with words like “violent”, “illegal” or “terrorist.”
An issue that has arisen is that people feel clicking “share” means that they’ve done their part in whatever occurrence is viral at the time. However, this feeling isn’t justified, by clicking “share” the justice due Trayvon Martin is no closer to being received, nor are the children in Uganda any closer to being saved from Kony. It begs the question of where our solidarity went, and why modern society feels that “sharing” a post is sufficient enough to aquire change.
I would hope that, with the growth of social media, the youth of not just America, but of the world would be introduced to more and more incidents, and that they would then have the ability to become more active and to be the change that we truly in the world. However, as I’ve said, this isn’t accomplished by clicking “share.”
I have been hesitant to weigh in on the murder of Trayvon Martin. Most of the time when media picks a story and runs with it they do their best to stir the pot to get people’s blood boiling, whether its to get more hits on their web sight, readers or views. So in a situation as sensitive as this I’m reluctant to put my two cents in and add insult to injury.
Being a young minority one must be aware of how the pubic perceives you. I have seen enough movies, heard enough rap songs and read enough articles in my 24 years about how dangerous we are to be afraid of my own refection and the other faces around that look just like mine. Without an effective way to change the perception of young black males I don’t see anything changing. We have been made out to be the villians in this society, a roll we except way to often partly because we might see ourselves the same way. Until we can change the way we see ourselves and invest in venues that will show us in a better light the public will always see us as animals in dark hoodies. We are expendable as far as this country is concerned and that’s not going to change until we find ourselves worth.
Trayvon Martin’s murder is unbelievable but what is more unbelievable is how the local police have been handling the case. I don’t understand how Zimmerman is not considered guilty, and how the police chief believes his account. Why? In the 911 call Zimmerman says he is following Trayvon. In Trayvon’s last conversation with his girlfriend he says that a man is chasing him; so either the police are real stupid or somebody is trying to protect Zimmerman. Not only that but they didn’t test Zimmerman to see if he was on drugs or drunk but they did test Trayvon. That just sounds wrong to me and it makes me think the police are biased.
I do understand Florida’s laws maybe different to those we have in California but that does not change the fact that a grown man killed a teenager for no relevant reason. Hopefully Trayvon gets justice and Zimmerman does not get the privilege of having a normal life when he took the life of someone who was very loved by his family and did no harm to anybody.
Trayvon also reminds a lot of a kid that I know (they have almost the same exact face), and it is heart breaking for me. The fact that a young black man is considered dangerous or suspicious because he is wearing a hoodie is ridiculous and stereotypical. I never knew that having skittles in my pockets and carrying an iced tea would be dangerous.
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