Back in March of 2012, I wrote about my personal feelings on the Trayvon Martin tragedy. At that point I was writing about the need to view critically, to assess globally, to put ourselves in the position of “other” though we may never know that feeling. To see what I wrote then, check it out at https://karchamb.wordpress.com/2012/03/24/on-trayvon-martin/
Now, more than a year later, and a judgement later, I am struck by how little we have learned. I have friends, close friends, who don’t understand why this case is about race. I remind them that, if it were their son or daughter, they would have been taken home, out of the rain. I have heard others talk about the “fact” that the law was served. This is not untrue– the jury did not evade the letter of the law in their decision. But they were far from the spirit of it and certainly very far from justice.
We live in a society in which too many of our life choices, good and bad, are made for us. We have the options we do because of our race, gender, ethnicity, family of origin, social and economic status, and education. As a white person from the suburbs with a doctoral degree, I carry with me both privilege and confidence: it is the equivalent of the old Roman addage, “Civis Romanus,” by which Roman citizens could freely and safely walk the earth without fear. I can claim that I am safe because I am an American, but it is actually because I am white, I am middle class, I am well educated.
Benjamin Franklin is quoted as saying “Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.” This is not the time for Trayvon Martin’s mother to protest; this is the time for me, and those who look like me to rise up and say that we are outraged. We are outraged that one of our own, our children, was taken from us. This is our time to say that no child is safe until the black teenage male can walk freely. This is our time to memorialize the historic march on Washington, not to praise ourselves for how far we’ve come but to protest how far we haven’t — to demand justice for our children; to demand freedom of expression for those who may not dress in a way in which others are comfortable; to demand equality; and to recognize privilege and fight against it.