Jury selection for George Zimmerman, the man accused of killing Trayvon Martin, 17, began in Florida. The case, which overwhelmed the news cycle in early 2012, has taken many turns and created several narratives. One most prevalent being the “white man killing the unarmed black male teenager.” It is a familiar narrative with a deeply-rooted history in American society.
From legal slavery in the 19th century to de facto lynching laws that lasted well into the 20th century, the African American community has been well aware that white Americans have served as aggressors to black males. And oftentimes, there have been no legal repercussions for their violent actions on our community. We need to look no further than the cases of the accused (and later convicted) killers of 14-year-old Emmett Till and civil rights activist Medgar Evers. Till was lynched and his body dumped in a Mississippi River after allegedly whistling at a white woman. Evers was shot dead in front of his home where his wife and children waited for his arrival. All of the white men who participated in these murders went free for decades, in spite of the overwhelming evidence against them and the cries and protests of the black community for justice.
Fast-forward five decades and the media is still recounting these same narratives to us. So immediately upon hearing about Zimmerman killed Martin who only had a bag of Skittles and a bottle of iced tea in his hands, I believed that Zimmerman was guilty and needed to be punished. His crime should be broadcasted nationally, even internationally, because the world needed to know that white people were still racially profiling black people — with fatal results. At my high school we held talks regarding the Martin case. I participated in a black hoodie vigil in order of the outfit that Martin was wearing when he was killed. I read article after article and retweeted most of them to my Twitter followers who undoubtedly felt the same way about the case as I did. Justice would be served. Zimmerman would be an example.
Day after day, I watched Al Sharpton on MSNBC lament the fact that in even the year 2013, black males could still be gunned down by a white person and the white person gets away with it. The case infuriated me. It felt personal to an extent. I was black. I was 17-years-old at the time as well. It could have been me.Yet as I sat at home last Monday watching Al Sharpton talk about the Trayvon Martin case, I was conflicted. I was not wholly supportive of this extensive coverage of this case. After a year of hearing about it, I had not lost passion or my belief that Zimmerman had to be held accountable for his allegedly crime. Instead over the course of this year and the experiences that came with it, I was now infuriated about the fact that more cases of black males being senselessly gunned down in the street were not covered. Trayvon Martin is just one of thousands black male lives that have been lost to the streets within America.
I am a native of Chicago. I grew up here. And as much as I love the beauty and diversity of this city, I am now confident enough to say that it has an ugly stain. In 2012, more than 500 murders — most due to gun violence — occurred here. National news covered these outrageous numbers. To those outside of the city, it seemed as if this spike in crime was new and random. Yet I remember during the summer of 2010 that the murder rate was also high. That summer many cops were also shot and killed. Gun violence in Chicago is plaguing the city. And guess what? Most victims of gun violence are young, black males.
Every morning when I read the headlines I want to cry. Young black males die every day in urban settings and in places like my hometown of Chicago it’s in large numbers. Yet the needle barely moves on these mass numbers of deaths. This past Father’s Day weekend in the Windy City 41 people were shot and 7 died. That’s an insane number. However, the protests were silent and the rallies were largely reserved for those sensational crimes.
I’m writing this today not to say that the Trayvon Martin case should get less coverage. I’m advocating for these daily stories of inner-city deaths to get more coverage and incite more fury in the hearts of Americans. Tragedies, similar to the death of teenager Trayvon Martin, happen every single day. We just don’t hear about these cases on MSNBC and local news stations. We don’t see headlines outside of these cities lamenting the fact that we’re losing a generation of young Americans to gun violence.
And for me, I think that’s got to be the saddest headline that was never written.