If opinion polls hold true, George Zimmerman must be one of the most abhorred persons in Black America right about now. While the decision to prosecute the man may have attenuated some vicious sentiments, it nonetheless highlights how myopic and disconnected Black America has become by obsessively choosing to make the identity of the killer a prominent focus.
Yes, according to the prosecutor, the killing of Trayvon Martin was initiated by George Zimmerman profiling the teenager. Had the profiling not resulted in a loss of life, chances are these names are forever not linked in our lexicon. Alas, here we are, forced to grapple with the circumstances of a young man’s death.
But by focusing exclusively on the “Who” in this case, many blacks (my own friends included), have taken the easy route and conveniently scapegoated “Race.” The fact that Zimmerman is White/Hispanic really bears no weight on the long run; the race of Martin, being Black, however, carries all the significance in this tragic incident.
Although many Blacks will be quick to state that they harbor no such prejudice as exhibited by Mr. Zimmerman, the truth is … we mostly all do. A point to which Neil Franklin, an outstanding 34-year career narcotics cop in Baltimore, bravely admitted in the New York Times when he wrote: “I fell victim to fear and apprehension when I encountered a group of black teenagers on the street.” A point also solidified by a National Race and Politics Survey which recorded more than half of both Whites and Blacks in agreement with the statement: “Blacks are aggressive or violent.”
And yes, it is very convenient to summarily discount whatever anxiety Mr. Zimmerman, a White/Hispanic man, and Mr. Franklin, a Black man, felt toward young black males as disgustingly irrational and racist. But to do so is deeply symptomatic of the acute state of denial that handicaps our society. It should be noted that our perceptions, when dictated by reality, are not so easily dismissible; after all, in a complex and muddy world, our survival is oftentimes dependent on this primordial tool.
So, if any race can be fearful of a young black male, whether in a gated community in Florida or on the streets of Baltimore, the rightful question then becomes “What,” and not “Who,” killed young Trayvon.
The answer to this lies in the trends that make young Black males the most endangered demographic in American society; ensuring they walk with bull’s-eyes on their backs.
It is the fact that as of 2009, 80% of shootings in New York City were committed by Blacks, though they are only 23% of the population.
It is the fact that 55% of Black boys never graduate high school, the highest of any group in America.
It is the fact that between 1980 and 2008 (the latest date for which data is available); young Black males had the highest homicide offending rate compared to offenders in other racial and sex categories.
It is the fact that in the same period, 93% of Blacks were killed by Blacks. Yet, somehow, if you were to judge by the recent uproar over the death of Trayvon, you might be tempted to think those other deaths by Black hands are somehow less consequential or monumental.
I understand it is very sexy and chic to stand up for justice when it is the in-thing to do. It sends a feel-good chill down the spine; some self-edifying sense of purpose and nobility. But what happens to those “Trayvon Martins” that have died since that fateful night in Florida? The survivability of any group or race is totally dependent on the viability of its young men. So, what’s the future for Black America if its standard bearers are engaged in a genocidal and suicidal war of attrition, yet they provoke no national slogan like #JusticeforTrayvon, or rallies, or night vigils across America’s cities to save them?
Whatever the factors for this onslaught on black youth, be it drugs, poor schools, unstable homes, etc, it is overwhelmingly clear Black leadership has been grossly deficient in addressing the crisis. You wish to save Trayvon from being shot the next time, how about taking the bull’s-eye off his back? Fighting for conditions in America’s inner cities that stabilize and incentivize young black males to thrive is indispensable to our destination as a people. As evidenced by Zimmerman’s profiling of Trayvon, whatever image is sent from the mean streets of South Central L.A. regrettably affects some innocent kid living in a gated community in Florida.
The Black community seems to go through this cycle where racket is raised only when there is perceived sense of injustice being perpetrated by the other race: Some years ago it was the Jena 6, then Troy Davis, and now Trayvon Martin. Pitiable spurts of moments that amount to little or no enviable movement or momentum.
Apathy and complacency by Black America is “What” killed Trayvon. So far as 1 in every 3 Black males will see the inside of a jail cell at some point in his lifetime, conditions are ripe for black youth to continue to be stigmatized and profiled as dangerous.
If the prosecutor is right in this case, George Zimmerman will and should pay dearly for his crime. But how much longer shall Black America continue to pay dearly for its inertia to save its own?