It’s hard to believe but it’s been five years since Trayvon Martin, a young Black teenager minding his own business in Sanford, Florida, found himself at the end of a gun held by so-called neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman.
As the lead reporter and editor of The Miami Times at that time, I covered protests, rallies, community meetings and spent many hours with Trayvon’s parents, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin. As a father of two children, I often found it agonizing to listen to their words, to witness their pain and to eventually hear the “not guilty” verdict rendered by a jury of Zimmerman’s peers while he claimed throughout his trial that he was merely “standing his ground.”
Tragically, or perhaps more accurately predictably, very little has changed in America for Blacks — no matter what our ages. We still walk the streets with invisible bullseyes on our backs. We still walk the streets fearing that we will be detained, questioned, frisked, arrested or shot by law enforcement officials — more because of our skin color than because we were doing something wrong.
We have seen the development of youth-led organizations like Black Lives Matter, calling truth to power while shining a light on America’s greatest illness — racism. But their efforts alone are not enough.
And while some believed that with the election of Barack Obama as our nation’s first Black president, we had finally ushered in a post-racial world, it soon became evident that powerful whites were not going to allow Obama to succeed. Neither were they willing to see racial progress be achieved. Instead, they pushed for the renewal of progressive racism. Our new president seems to be in support of that drive, promising to “make America great again.”
During this month of February, as we reflect on the legacy of Black Americans, we would be wise to remember that Blacks will not see an end to racism, prejudice or poverty until we tell our elected officials that we’re “sick and tired of being sick and tired.”
Sybrina Fulton once told me that she never thought much about the dangers that Black boys faced every day upon leaving the safety of their homes, until it happened to her. Will you wait for tragedy to strike home, or will you join the movement?