Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The death of Trayvon Martin is not about black on black crime

It’s a connection that should not be made.  It’s insensitive. It’s rooted in an unfair assumption.  It’s grounded in the type of hyperbole that led to the acquittal of George Zimmerman.

Across the nation, people are connecting the ghastly rise of black on black homicide with the death of Trayvon Martin.  The common assertion is to reflect on our need, as a black community, to place emphasis on what is happening locally rather becoming overly consumed with one case.

This form of bombast plays into the conclusion of those who agree with the ruling to acquit Zimmerman.  By combining the death of Trayvon with the deaths of other black men, we give credence to Zimmerman’s actions that night.

In other words, Zimmerman was right to fear for his life.  In other words, it is proper to assert that most black boys are thugs and crooks in search of a place to rob.  Yes, in other words, why are you poking holes at Zimmerman when it is common for black men to commit crimes?

The two do not belong in the same conversation.  Doing so disgraces the life of Trayvon and feeds into the negative stereotypes prevalent within mainline culture.  It establishes a place to continue the bashing of black men based on the evidence of delinquency among the rest.

What happened to Trayvon is not about what happens among other black youth.  To make his death about black on black crime is insulting to parents begging us to see Trayvon’s humanity beyond the actions of other black men.  He should not be used to promote a larger agenda, but should be viewed within the context of the facts and emotions that come with his own death.

Trayvon wasn’t killed by a gang of black youth.  It’s imperative that we separate him from conversations related to fixing those woes.  It’s not the same discussion.

That’s not to imply that we can’t have that conversation.  Both can be had in a way that doesn’t compromise the merit of the other.  Trayvon was killed for being caught in the crossfire of dysfunction among black men.  He was assumed guilty due to being viewed as an offender.  We continue that trend whenever we offer insight to his death that uses him as an example of black on black crime versus being killed due to massive assumptions.

Communities across the country need to call summits on the stake of black males.  These conversations should be led by and informed from the insight of black men.  Black men need to be heard, and communities should respond in ways that celebrate their perception and journey.

These conversations should force integrity around the humanity of those who speak.  Black men should join forces and demand the end of grouping stories in ways that paint all of us as the same.  Black men are a collective of stories that deserve being heard within their individualized contexts versus adding to proof of the maddening ways of all black men.

Trayvon’s death is not about black on black crime.  It is not about the deaths in our local communities.  His death should not be used to reflect on those deaths.

It’s not the same.

What is the message of Trayvon’s death?

He died at 17.  He was minding his business.  He was walking with Skittles and tea in hand. 

He had no gun.  He was not involved in gang activity.  He was not shot by a black youth.

Don’t feed into the stereotypes that aid in the forfeiting of those facts.  We play the same game whenever we shift the emphasis away from those facts.

His parents deserve better.  He deserves better.

Yes, black youth die every day. Yes, black boys are killing one another.

All of that is true, but it has nothing to do with the death of innocent children.

That’s what the jury assumed. Don't do the same.


  1. Outstanding piece, Carl... and very much needed. Indeed, the stereotypes fueled by hatred allow for these ludicrous beliefs and (as you perfectly labeled it) bombast to proliferate. Keep up the great commentaries.
    --Stephen Vittoria

  2. A friendly note: Carl,you can't persuade until you begin to see that people who differ with you are not necessarily (or even frequently) evil,racist,stupid,or dishonest. Until you recognize that hard fact, there's no reason for people to read your stuff unless they agree with you to start with. You invariably alienate people who don't already agree with you, including many of us who disagree only slightly and occasionally. As a result you can't educate or guide them, and you actually drive them further from your view. Essentially you say, "You're an asshole,you evil racist, now listen while I tell you why." When you do that -- as you virtually always do -- the people who most need your message stop listening. And you even say it to people who are not at all racist. You make the same fundamental error that all racists do. It's a shame to see you waste your considerable talents in that way when you could be doing so much good -- if only you'd develop a more nuanced and informed view of human nature. Without it you're just some guy screaming to the choir, and not even much of the choir listens.

    1. David, my intent is not to persuade people who disagree, but to share common feelings of black men. This is an important exchange due to the massive silencing of those voices. I do not feel that all white people are evil, and my writing is not intended to assert that notion. It is aimed at reflecting deeply on common emotions from a unique perspective. In my writing, I am clear to use the words "perceptions" and "assumptions" to bring bearing to how both can hinder unity. Growth comes by creating space for people to speak the truth. Those devoid of power are often denied that right, which is what separates my words from the racist. They are written from a place that has been denied voice.

      I would suggest that you listen to those voices. Just as men must concede the passion of women broken by patriarchy, it's imperative that voices of blacks be heard from their perspective. I have not called anyone and asshole or racist. Mine is a voice David. You're asking for that voice to be compromised to affirm your own position. At issue is what happens to the voice of those who lack my talent to share? Are you asking me to negate that voice to satisfy a need that is not my own?

      My desire is not to convince David. It's to share pain. Isn't that what writing is intended to do? Should we all seek to delve into those deep places that no one can see due to the drive to simply fit?

      The people who need my message are not those who disagree, but those who cheer me on because they have no space to say what I say on their behalf. I'm making no assumptions David. You have made assumptions about me. Speak about race is difficult.

      What are you asking me to do David? To think more like a white man and assimilate into a more nuanced and informed view of human nature that refuses to consider the state of my condition as a black man? Who are you to judge that condition, and why are you so bent on forcing a discussion related to how I should write, feel and communicate those views?

      These are conversations written from the context of my race and grapples as a black man. Listen. Don't assume. Learn from those experiences. You have no right to manipulate that process. It's my own. I can't think like you. Racism lives with me in a way that is real. I wish that weren't true, but it is true.

      For those who refuse to listen, I'm sorry. I write from a passion that belongs to me.

      The worse part is I'm not alone

    2. I value your response here Carl. It is the writer's job to speak of his or her experiences, observations, and perceptions. It is not the job of the essay writer to be concerned with not making the reader uncomfortable or unsettled. It is the reader who must explore these responses in his or her own self-inquiry and reflections: "Why am I feeling this way?" "What did the writer say that prompted these feelings?" "How do I want to respond to my feelings?" Indeed, Carl, you are not alone.

  3. Carl I can't argue your point, however until we have that conversation and possess it with the same passion that we've embraced Trayvon this comparison will continue. Just about 3 weeks ago 45 black people in 48 hours where shot in Chicago by black people and not as much as a scream was heard.

    If we as black men to continue to fail to proactively get in front of these situations they then will only continue to serve as a first cousin to the Trayvon cases.