Trayvon Martin, All-American Boy
When we first met Trayvon Martin — unfortunately, too late to do anybody any good — a few details caught our attention. He wanted to be a pilot. He was good at math. He was good with mechanical things. He liked helping his quadriplegic uncle. He liked baking cookies for his cousins. He played football.
Since then, we’ve learned a few more things about Trayvon. He was suspended from school for an empty pot baggie. He had earlier been suspended for graffiti — for tagging “WTF” on a hallway locker. He was found with women’s jewelry in his backpack — “a friend gave it to me”, he said, and nothing came of it. Before then, he had been suspended for tardiness and truancy.
And we ask: So?
Let’s start with what we know — and only what we know — about the incident itself. Trayvon was visiting his father. He was watching the NBA All-Star game. He stepped out during halftime to buy some snacks at the 7-Eleven. When he was walking home from the store, he was followed by a stranger who regarded him as suspicious. He got into a fight with the stranger. He was, briefly, winning the fight. And then the stranger shot him.
We don’t know how the fight started. We don’t know who threw the first punch. We don’t know who menaced whom. And, as the public evidence stands, we may never know.
Still, Trayvon was doing nothing wrong that night. Which renders irrelevant any supposedly incriminating details about his life. He wasn’t, say, burglarizing the neighborhood. He was walking through it.
But that’s not why we ask the question.
No, we ask because we’re not sure what the new details tell us about a 17-year-old boy that’s different from any other 17-year-old boy in America. Trayvon had some good, even exemplary, qualities. He also got into some scrapes. Give him ten or twenty years, and the scrapes become a familiar backstory to any adult male in America: Yeah, we got into some trouble now and then as a kid. And then we grew out of it.
The only difference with Trayvon Martin is that he never had those ten or twenty years. And we see nothing in the record that suggests he wouldn’t have had some great stories to tell about his adventurous youth.
We all tell those stories. Those of us who live to tell them.
Florida is a state that does its best to put guns in the hands of its white citizens and yank ballots out of the hands of its African American citizens. You do the math.
As the meme goes: I don’t want to live on this planet anymore.
“[W]e ask because we’re not sure what the new details tell us about a 17-year-old boy that’s different from any other 17-year-old boy in America. Trayvon had some good, even exemplary, qualities. He also got into some scrapes. Give him ten or twenty years, and the scrapes become a familiar backstory to any adult male in America: Yeah, we got into some trouble now and then as a kid. And then we grew out of it.
The only difference with Trayvon Martin is that he never had those ten or twenty years. And we see nothing in the record that suggests he wouldn’t have had some great stories to tell about his adventurous youth.”
Unfortunately, the difference is not just that Trayvon never had those ten or twenty years. it’s also that the teen white boys who are able to outgrow their scrapes without any lasting damage, while our nation’s criminal and juvenile justice systems are designed to hoover up every young male of color who engages in the same scrapes, with lasting and permanent damage thanks to the terrible (and often life-long) collateral consequences of tangling with the system. While white guys in their 30s and 40s can reminisce about the crazy shit they used to do when they were 16, for too many non-white men, it’s not as fun or fond of a memory because their lives are still affected as a result.
As Serolf Divad points out, losing the vote is but one of many of the permanent limits on their ability to be a full member of society.
I highly recommend Michelle Alexander’s book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindless. She succinctly and systematically paints out the picture of what is going on.
No longer US America’s wang, but US America’s dick.
You can’t quite make it out in this version of the photo, but Trayvon’s jumpsuit has his name on it. Which I think is incredibly cool.
@ManchuCandidate: Good we’ve identified that. We’ve known where America’s asshole is for some time.
@mellbell: I told Silent Creative Partner that the next time there’s a Talk Like a Pirate day, I’m dressing as myself.
@mellbell: Oh, great. Now I’m getting other people’s AARP applications in the mail. Unless it’s for me, and I’m looking at it with the wrong eye.
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