Approximately 6,000 African American and Latino males are killed in the United States every year. Five hundred young black men are killed annually in Chicago. Three hundred young black men are murdered annually in Los Angeles.
Last year, on February 26, 2012, the nation learned the name of one, Trayvon Martin. George Zimmerman was found ‘Not Guilty.’ Really…is this happening again?
The story of Trayvon Martin rocked the nation when a 17-year-old son of American soil lost his life while walking home through the gated community. Twenty-eight-year-old George Zimmerman, who wanted to be a police officer and was president of a small neighborhood watch, described Martin as a suspicious character and called the police. After receiving instructions from the Police Department to stand down, Zimmerman disregarded the instruction, confronted Martin, an altercation ensued and Martin lay dead.
President Obama, the nation, and the world defined the tragedy as racial profiling, dawned hoodies (it was said that Trayvon’s hoodie made him look like a gang member) and carried Skittles in support of the slain teen. We all were glued to trial… Really!
After almost a year and a half of private, and public protests, a grueling trial and the minds of millions made up, Zimmerman was acquitted of all charges. Not guilty. Really? This caught some off guard, but those of us who understand injustice is alive and well, it was business as usual.
Reactions to the verdict are as opposite as our commitment to bridging racial inequities and misconceptions. “Only white life is protected in America,” one protester in Washington shouted.” “Thank God the jury got it right and found George not guilty,” Facebook user Pete Habel posted on the ‘George Zimmerman is Innocent’ Facebook page according to CNN.
When the dust settles and the smoke clears, people of color in this country feel the arrows of racial profiling hitting the red bull’s eye on their backs. Supporters of Zimmerman continue to believe the judicial system remains unflawed.
Justice was not in the Florida Court Room one Saturday night. The truth is justice for men and boys of color are rarely in the room. How do people living in America continue to devalue the lives of people of color? Equally true, how do people of color continue to devalue the lives of young people living in our communities?
We have made a lot of noise about the Zimmerman case…Really! The riots of last week are a reminder of the Los Angeles Watts riot and Rodney King riot of years ago. We have not come this far to continue to act solely from anger veiled by righteous indignation hoodies.
The fact is no one REALLY wants to face the ugly truths about this country and REALLY wants do something about it.
Act we must, but let us act wisely. Act to change racial profiling. Act to train our youth and young adults to finish college, graduate school. Act to create jobs instead being depended on someone to hire us.
Act to create a just community. Act and act wisely…. Really!!!!
(The Rev. Mark E. Whitlock, Jr., is the senior pastor of Christ Our Redeemer A.M.E. Church in Irvine and president of the Orange County Interdenominational Alliance.)