My Trayvon Martin

My Trayvon Martin loves baseball, basketball and his little sister. He loves to dote on her and sees it as his job to protect her.

As I write this, he is feeding her breakfast before he heads out to baseball camp.

My Trayvon Martin will be 8 years old in December. It pains me to think that in a few short years my fun-loving grandson will be public enemy number one to some people.  His parents will have to school him on what not to do if  he is stopped by the police. They will tell him to watch how he behaves in public, how he dresses and how he wears his hair. All these decisions will play a role in whether he is racially profiled.

This is a truth for all parents of young black men. I have four nephews, ranging in age from 13 to 3. What will their futures be? They are bright, the apples of their parents’ eyes and our hope for tomorrow.

This week, the trial of George Zimmerman began in a Florida courtroom. A jury of six women must decide if Zimmerman acted in self-defense, or if he committed second degree manslaughter.  In this case, it is hard to separate  facts from rhetoric. Was Trayvon an innocent teenager walking home from the store with a drink and a pack of Skittles; or did he attack Zimmerman after the neighborhood watch captain began to follow him? Who was practicing self-defense, Zimmerman or Trayvon?

Only two people know what really happened that night and one of them is dead. The other has changed his story multiple times and tried to hide his assets.

One thing is certain, racial profiling is a fact of life for young black men. It colors their every movement. Yes, young black men disproportionally commit more crimes that their counterparts. But that should not mean they should all be viewed as threats.

It happened to the 13-year-old son of my friends Ava and Dale Greenwell, who was stopped  and handcuffed by police in his own suburban Chicago neighborhood. Ava, a professor at Northwestern University, wrote about the incident and has sued the police department  officers who stopped her son because the clothes he was wearing generally matched those of a burglary suspect.

It happened to my colleague Wayne’s son in his own neighborhood. He  too took action against the security guard his gated neighborhood hired to protect its residents. After Wayne demanded an apology, the guard opted to quit his job instead.

All these young men are Trayvon Martin.

My grandson is my pride and joy. So are my nephews. They are my Trayvon Martin.

See Ava Greenwell’s column here:


6 thoughts on “My Trayvon Martin

  1. When my second eldest son was in high school two of his best friends (young black men who lived in the same neighborhood we live in) decided to scare my daughter by peeking at her through a window while she was working on the computer after 11 p.m. When she came to us, terribly afraid, saying someone had looked in the window at her we called the police. In the meantime, the guys called our son to tell him what they had done. I was furious with them. First for scaring our daughter, second for putting themselves in danger. I told them so the next day when they came to apologize. I told them that as much as I hated to admit it, there were people–white people–who might have seen them creeping around the house and taken matters into their own hands. I knew they were good kids, but someone else might not know that and assume the worst. It was a difficult conversation because I knew the same assumptions wouldn’t be made about my own son. (‘Course then he became a hip hop artist, shaved his head, wore tats and dressed in hoodies–now he gets profiled too!) Crazy world. Crazy people in this crazy, lost world.

    • Craziness indeed! We had a great discussion today in the newsroom on race relations. There was an 18-year-old on our panel from North Fulton and he said even though his school is diverse they still deal with racial issues from time to time. He told the story of dating a white girl whose dad hated him because he was black. The girl’s sister dated a white guy who the father loved. Th sister’s boyfriend got arrested for armed robbery and Brian is going to Yale. KARMA!!!

  2. Thanks, Angela. All too true. We must be able to walk in one another’s shoes if we are ever going to make things better. Booker would be pleased to hear how you make the universal personal — which is how to change hearts and minds.

    • Hey Alice — I completely agree with you. I miss Booker so. I need to go see him. Have you seen him lately? Reed Kimbrough was at the AJC today to moderate a panel on race relations (See Sunday’s paper). It is always great to see our former colleagues and how you all are doing your think post AJC. Sharmen Gowens also came out today. Even though she “retired” she is still working hard and looks great as usual.

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