I have an 18-year-old brother whom I love dearly. He’s an African American college freshman, and sometimes a knucklehead. He has all of the answers and therefore does not always listen to wise counsel. He has never been in trouble with the law, never used drugs, and has never drunk alcohol. Sometimes he leaves the house dressed in a suit. At other times, he leaves dressed in sweats. His attire doesn’t give anyone a license to kill him.
The reality is, I sometimes leave home looking both ways myself. I choose how I dress and what is appropriate for lunch with my girlfriends or a quick grocery-store run. If someone approached me at either location with an armed weapon and I feared for my life, I would do everything I could to defend myself and so would you.
My initial response to Trayvon Martin’s death was, “That could have been my brother.” As I witness the media hysteria build around the case, I have to sit back for a moment and take inventory of our culture. It would be quite easy to write a Facebook status or change my profile picture to an image of myself in a hoodie. It’s quite easy to march for a day or protest for a month. We may blog about the case, read an article, or discuss it with friends at work, or a Black preacher may shout about this injustice from the pulpit on a particular Sunday, maybe even two, but eventually, we will forget.
The danger in our current outrage is that we might turn Trayvon Martin into a symbol, when in fact he was a real teenager. Some have drawn comparisons between Trayvon and Emmett Till, the Chicago teen whose brutal murder by Mississippi racists in the 1950s helped mobilize the civil rights movement. One commentator suggests Trayvon’s death may be “our Emmett Till moment.”
Trayvon is not the modern-day Emmett Till. Our attention spans are much too short for that, and our thirst for the next trending topic is much too great. We will forget Trayvon Martin. It may not be this week, this month, or this year, but eventually we will all forget.
This is the travesty of the Trayvon Martin situation: injustices like this occur against poor and minority children every day in this country and many pretend not to know. Black-on-Black crime is still real, often effectively ending the lives of both parties. Black kids are still dropping out of school at alarming rates. Young Black men are still checking into prison at rates comparable to those who enroll in college, and too many of them are being raised in homes without fathers. They are struggling in failing public schools. Gangs are lurching around those schools and targeting our children on the streets. Every day young girls are born into welfare-type situations and growing up to repeat the cycles modeled by their mothers simply because they have not witnessed an alternative. These children lose hope long before the age of 18, and as a result they often descend into committing crimes against humanity. We are all guilty. We cut the lives of these kids short and murder them with our complacency and our silence.
Why? Because we are busy. As individuals, we have personal goals of success to pursue. We have to raise our own kids. Our churches are busy with a bunch of good programs and activities which cater to our children. We ignore large chunks of the Bible because they are disruptive to our current lifestyles. Remember the part when Jesus returns and all nations of people are gathered before him? Here is the qualification for entering God’s heavenly kingdom on that day:
“For I [Jesus] was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothe me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him ‘Lord when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matt. 25:31-40).
Then Jesus proceeds to curse and turn away those who respond in the opposite manner. In this passage, Jesus is not asking whether or not someone recited a profession of faith or was baptized. He is simply asking, “How did you live?” See, the gospel is not something to simply accept and show up for on Sunday mornings. The gospel is life — our day-to-day choices of what we are going to prioritize. Are we going to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and whether or not we are going to love our neighbors as much as we love ourselves? That is the critical question that we must ask ourselves every day of our lives. The answer to that question will make all the difference.
The question marks surrounding the Trayvon Martin case may never be resolved. It’s possible that the man who shot him will never be charged. But Trayvon’s life already has been laid down. The question is: Are you willing to lay down your life for those like him?
What are you going to do, Christian? What are you going to do, Church? Are we going to turn our frustrations into something positive that has a lasting impact? Are we going to turn the tide and reclaim responsibility for our children? Are we going get into the schools and communities to teach, mentor, and tutor our young people and equip their mothers and fathers to be better parents? Are we going to continue to murder, or are we going to choose life?
Tasha, This artical really explains a lot about how we as African American get into these types of situations. It also explains where our focus needs to be in order to turn these type of situations around and to do some positive things in our surroundings. Thanks again for your outstanding eye openning opinion. This should enlighten all of us. And of course that scripture says it all.
The church will do a lot, and has done a lot. It’s just not trending on Twitter.
At my church, we have launched the A.T. Streets Disciples to address the growing catastrophe of human trafficking in Oakland Ca. Allen Temple also has its Leadership Institute where we teach youth how to be community leaders; We have our AIDS ministry which has linked arms with Mother of Peace orphanage in Zimbabwe to save the lives and educate as many orphaned children as possible. We also have our Training Academy for brothers who need help re-entering society after serving prison sentences; training, counseling and employment. We also have senior housing with ministers for the sick and shut in seniors.
NONE of this trends on Twitter. Does that mean its not actually happening, and that we dont exist? And we are in DEEP East Oakland, the forgotten place. The hardest hit economically.
I know for sure that there are other churches that are quietyly doing something. They get no press. They dont trend on Twitter and have no time for updating FB statuses. Yet I know they exist.
Its nothing new when we dont see something happening and choose to conclude that nothing IS happening. For me, it’s dishonoring. My christian brother, Rev Harry Williams goes from church to church from meeting to meeting, from organization to organization. Everyday. Why? He meets people AT WORK helping our children, and he encourages them and helps them. They arent trending on Twitter. But they do exist.
For these warriors who lay down their lives daily, its dishonoring when we make broad statements suggesting that no one in our communities is doing anything to save lives.
We black people have to give ourselves a little more credit. We tend to look around our narrow place and see nothing then assume that all black people do nothing. We point our finger but three fingers point back at us and condemn us. Instead of assuming that no one is doing anything, seek out those who are doing, and help them. They desparately need your help.
Anna Renee, Thank you for sharing your testimony and the great work that your church is doing. Understand, I am writing from the context of the universal Church and not one particular church or individual. While there are many local churches that are evangelizing, disciplining, and mentoring young people, we as a unified body of believers have a lot more work to do. That is not simply my assumption, it is my observation from regular dialog with Christian leaders across this country. It is also a conclusion drawn from a lot of reading about injustices in this country that the Church at large regularly ignores, this topic only being one of them. For example, in his book entitled, Oneness Embraced: A Fresh Look at Reconciliation, the Kingdom, and Justice, Dr. Tony Evans highlights the challenges in urban communities and the response the universal Church needs to take as a result. His ministry is an excellent example of how churches can daily engage in these efforts of injustice and social issues for the sake of the gospel. That’s the message and challenge of this article.
Natasha you asked the questions that needed to be asked and said the things that no one is saying in the passion of the moment. What I hear you saying is that each one of us has to go beyond the “us four and no more” attitude. Until we understand that because we can quote scripture, attend church, and shout; we’ve done nothing. Until we feed the child next door, give a drink to someone thirsting for significance, and train the whole family to go out and bring hope to those who need someone to simply acknowledge that they exist, we are sounding brass and tinkling cymbals. What you said was right on target. And who does it begin with? Me.
Tasha, your article expresses many truths, and is written in such a manner that the issues are expressed clearly, on many levels. Masterful and genius writing of a difficult issue facing all of us: What is our individual and Christian response to injustice anywhere? Keep up the great work!
Thank you Natasha! Very eloquently written. Faith without works is dead. No need to complain about things you don’t work to change. Wearing a hoodie and protesting in the street won’t be enough to fix the many social ills that plague our communities. Our families must begin to heal and rebuild. There have been and continue to be many wrongs committed against our people in recent years ( Yusef Hawkins…James Byrd…The Jena 6…). I won’t even begin to act as though much of it isn’t our fault but I do not ignore the past that we obviously keep repeating. We regularly give passes to the media when they depict us in deplorable ways. We support horrible images portrayed by actors, musicians, and artists who don’t care to use their success to help improve our condition. We are still considered “undesirables”, though it would appear so many are doing much to be like us.
I am not the majority…I love my community, my people. I will do more! I will be vigilant!
Very well written and explained Natasha. I disagree with you regarding your disagreement with comparison of Trayvon Martin’s death to that of Emmett Till. Emmett Till wasn’t the only black youth or black person for that matter being lynched during that era. His mother’s decision to open the casket and the introduction of television/media that catapulted his death, and acquittal of his murders, into the consciences of Black America stiring an emotional response and igniting a great movement…the “Civil Rights Movement”. Trayvon Martin’s murder isn’t the first, nor will he be the last gun violence/violent murder but the circumstances surrounding his death and his family’s willingness to “fight for justice” has aroused a modern day movement more inclusive of our youth than ever before. Young minds are being challenged and stirred by wha happened to Trayvon, our family (the Till family) can identify with the hurt, grief, pain, disappointment, unfairness, anger, desperation, and feeling of helplessness that the Martin family is experiencing; Emmett’s mom died without justice and we inherited her legacy of injustice as a family. Media & social networking are aiding in the fight for justice in the Martin case. Now that we have an emotional movement and the momentum is yet high, churches, schools, and individuals must ban together continuing the arousal of our youth to demonstrate and educate them to properly fight against the injustices they are confronted with. If Zimmerman never gets arrested, nor convicted “I” believe this case will never be forgotten and set a precedent for changes in our judicial system across the globe.
Striving for Justice
Cousin of Emmett Till/Estate heir
Please forgive the typos…typing fast!
Greetings Ms. Airickca, Thank you so much for reading and responding. I am quite thankful for Emmett Till’s mother’s courageous decision and your family’s dedication to continue the fight against injustice. Blessings to you all. I hope you are right concerning the Martin case. My concern is that time and maybe the commitment of the people have changed.I wonder if this is a Trayvon Martin “Movement” or “Moment?” Once the case has settled and the smoke has cleared, I wonder if the “churches, schools, and individuals [will] ban together continuing the arousal of our youth to demonstrate and educate them to properly fight against the injustices they are confronted with” as you say. I wonder if we will not only fight for Trayvon but for so many others like him in our own cities and towns, whose stories never make the national news. This is what I wonder…
That truly remains to be seen and a very valid concern. In Chicago, many citizens have started rallying and supporting families of fallen victims, a rally is being held as we speak for Rekia Boyd. We are mobilizing and organizing in solidarity striving to reduce/end the violence that is plaguing our youth. I stand in support of your concerns for I share them. We must stop being REACTIONARIES and demonstrate a continuum of ACTIONS!
A fellow writer “Responding to the Trayvon Martin Tragedy” with a cry to the church:
This story is a long way from me, but I was struck listening to an interview on the radio where a parent asked, “what do I tell my son?” Teenagers do and say silly things as Tasha noted. How do you protect your child from every stupid situation they may innocently stumble into?
I’m taken with your comment about serving those whom you don’t realize God has called you to help. We have a young woman living with us right now and often I have no clue why she’s with us–but I then I think, we’re modeling an intact marriage and praying in difficult situations. This is the person God has brought across my path. This one I choose to mentor–do I need to go out to the highways and byways?
Thank you so much for this! It is well written and clearly articulated. It is the continued food for thought I need.
Grace & peace,
Grand Rapids, MI
we all know that trayvon martin is not emmett till but at the same time people have to realize the underlying problem then and now is race. i dont agree that people will just forget about trayvon martin, they may push it out as time goes on but no one will ever forget about it, just like emmett till. although i wasnt there im pretty sure when the emmett till situation happened people reacted the same way as they did with this trayvon martin case and then after a while it also got pushed away. but at the same time people still remember him and what happened. so who is to say that this wont be marked down in history, no one knows. it is true that people, in particular blacks, get killed each and every day but its pretty rare that people push to really have something done about the situation and just like emmett till’s mother wanted justice trayvon martin’s mother wants the same thing. no one is saying that trayvon martin is emmett till they just want justice to be served where justice is due..
Thank you, Natasha, for a beautiful, clear call to action. I was amazed to read a response and dialogue with Emmet Till’s relative. What a good reminder that both young men are not symbols, but real people.
Oh my, they really look like twins. And it happened to be that they also died at same scenario. I am hoping for his soul to peacefully rest. Condolences to his family as well.
Irene from manteau cape avec capuche
FREE BARABBAS! This is the same “Free OJ!” mentality that blacks use to return murderers to the free world where they can continue murdering. Have a Marxist agitator whip everyone into a frenzy of racial insecurity and hatred to sow insurrection and sprinkle it with Gospel for good measure.
This article is pure tribalism. Here’s the real problem:
“The question marks surrounding the Trayvon Martin case may never be resolved. It’s possible that the man who shot him will never be charged. But Trayvon’s life already has been laid down. The question is: Are you willing to lay down your life for those like him?”
Kicked out of school
Punching and attacking a stranger who eventually shot him
None of this is “laying down his life”! This is called “throwing your life away.”
We now know that NBC edited the 911 calls to make Zimmerman appear “racist”. But don’t take my word for it, NBC admitted as much:
Here’s what ABC is saying now:
Zimmerman did suffer injuries and the media edited it out so they could push the “racist” script. Here’s the full story the media left out:
The media is playing you people for fools and it worked oh so well!
Free Barabbas! Let the guilty go and crucify the innocent!
We live in America, not in a Democracy (aka Mobocracy) where everyone has a right to a speedy trial. Screaming for “justice” (aka Lynch Mob Justice) destroys the process and because of people like you there’s a great chance Zimmerman will walk. If you hand out bogus charges they’ll walk just like Casey Anthony. Murder cannot happen during an act of self-defense but manslaughter can. Zimmerman was charged with murder because of dopes like you.
Free Barabbas! Let the guilty go and crucify the innocent!
The real problem here is racial insecurity which has created tribalism. Christianity was never about “solidarity” or any other Socialist slogan.
Matthew 20:15 – ‘Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’
The parable of the Capitalist. Any time you want to leave the Welfare Plantation there’s another world waiting.
Fact still remains you cant go around shooting people because they’re black, oh I mean because they look suspicous. Zimmerman should be in jail, what he did was wrong. At this point he needs to pay for what he’s done. There’s no explaining it away. He’s going to kill again it he is freed. I know his type of mentality. Let me tell you, all of you should be afraid of what’s going to happen here. Take note Zimmerman’s actions are going to set a precident. Let’s hope it’s a good one for the victim. LIFE IN PRISON FOR ZIMMERMAN that’s the best we can hope for.